Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you
from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the
text for this morning comes from that Gospel reading.
“He who has ears to hear, let him
hear.” When Jesus speaks parables, they are very short and pithy constructs to
make a point. But the most fascinating aspect of His proclamation of the
parables is that, when He preaches and proclaims them to the general crowd who
listens, there are many who walk away, scratching their head, trying to figure
it out, but they don’t get it explained to them all in that one place. It is to
be explained privately later, as He said to His own disciples.
Now, that flies in the face of lots
of our own rational and logical constructs in our mind that, when one wants to
explain something, you want to be as clear as possible and you keep repeating
it in different ways and angles, and then there’s always the question-and-answer
period at the end. “Did you get it? Did you understand?” and then there is some
feedback. “Yes, I got it. I understand.” Jesus doesn’t play that. And that’s
remarkable, because what preachers are tempted to do is we want to dump the
whole load on anybody who’s listening, and we oftentimes over speak too many
things. Or we wish to explain to people who come to church and they’re going,
“I don’t get it.” And we want to try to make all kinds of reasons and excuses
and justifying answers rather than saying, “Keep giving it a try. It’ll grow on
you.” God’s Word will grow on you, because God’s Word does not lay dormant or
idle. It is life-giving; it is life-filled; and it makes things happen even if
we cannot see it. And that’s the amazing aspect of both of these, but first and
foremost, the first parable. We get a great explanation of the seed being sown
by this man. We get this understood that it grows and so on, and then we get
the great harvest. The two things that are focused upon in most all the
parables when it comes to seeds and sown in harvest is all it’s sown and it’s
harvested, and the details in-between are often left without any explanation.
Now Paul talks about growing in the
faith, and so does Pater. They talk about living out this faith, struggle with
the flesh and so on, but Jesus in His parables talks about the seed being sown
and the seed being harvested. And the in-between period He doesn’t explain. The
interesting thing about the man in the parable, he’s kind of inconsequential,
and if anything, he’s a lot like you and me in that we sow seed, and as the
text said so clearly, yet, when it’s sown, it grows up and becomes larger and
he knows not how, the man who sows it. Now, the man who sows it in the era of
when Jesus proclaimed this parable was far more adept at gardening than any of
us are, and yet, he uses that term to describe his wonder at its growth. The
miracle of life. The inability to explain fully how it can become from this to
The next step is time. We love to
constrict God to time, because what we see growing anywhere in the world takes
time. Nothing grows overnight and then is harvested the next day. We think in
terms of time. God does not.
She fit in my hand, Elizabeth, and
she was born about eighteen weeks premature, and her mother and father made
sure that I was there to baptize her as soon as she was born because they knew
fully she would die within minutes after being born because she had so many
birth defects. And her little hand as I baptized her moved across….I mean, my
whole hand covered her, and as I baptized her and made the sign of the cross on
her little walnut-size head, her little hand came over and touched my hand. It
was a very profound moment, and yet, in that moment, did God’s seed get planted.
Did it grow. And was it harvested. In that moment, we tend to think of harvest
as always being something that takes years, and for those of us with gray
hairs, yes, it’s taking a few years, and for those of us with more gray hairs,
yes, it’s still taking a long time. But God’s harvest comes when He determines
it’s ripe and ready. That’s why the beauty of that parable doesn’t get into the
details of the how and why and the in-between….only that God’s Word is planted
and that God’s Word produces something, and it’s harvested. The time in-between
can be, from a temporal point of view, seconds or decades.
Now, moving from an individualistic
point of view to a corporate point of view. The church is such a living,
breathing thing. The church was sown by the prophets of old. It took root
during the prophets’ proclaiming and so on, and finally began to grow and
produce fruit, if we’re going to use these chronological timeframes, during the
apostles’ preaching. Now in the early years of the church, one could see very
clearly growth, no different than when you have a live oak growing, you can
quickly each year go back to that live oak and say, “Wow, it’s grown this
year.” But when you drive by and look at those live oaks in the front of this
church, you cannot perceptibly say, “I can really tell a difference this year.
It’s grown more.” Because it is such a big thing. So is the church scattered
around the world. Imperceptibly does it grow. Unexplained though, does it grow.
Only that we know it grows, and that’s the great truth of this parable that we
are to be comforted. It grows. It produces. It’s harvested. More is sown and it
continues until Christ comes again with glory to judge the living and the dead.
Does it continue? Let your heart be at rest.
We fret. Oh my goodness, we fret because
we have a great love for other people. We want them to know about this great
truth that you and I have. And when someone says, “The church isn’t for me,” or
when someone says, “I don’t understand it. I’m done with it,” or when someone
says anything disparaging of this great body of Christ, we wish to try to fix
their issue. We can’t fix it, and that’s humbling. And that’s the truth of God’s
Word this morning. You and I can’t fix it. God’s Word can and God’s Word has.
God’s Word does and will. We are to remain faithful to this proclamation of
seeds being sown, and even if we are unable to perceptibly measure a difference
in growth does not mean it’s still not growing. God’s Word says it grows. Because
the focus of that first parable is not in the soil, nor in the sower, nor in
the weather. The focus of the first parable is in the seed, the power of that
seed, its ability to be what it is, life-giving. Just as Christ said, “Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless a seed of grain falls into the earth and dies, it
stands alone. But if it falls into the earth and dies, it produces a harvest.”
You are that harvest.
You and I can look at our own lives
and say, “Have I grown? Have I not grown?” God be praised that we are unable to
see the great growth that God is accomplishing in your and my life for, if we
were to see such growth, we would be so pompous and proud. Look at what God has
done, except we would say, “Look at what I have done.”
Elizabeth is glorifying God in His
presence, fully developed, and she is not thinking in terms of what she did.
She is only thinking in terms of the one who gave birth to her, her heavenly
Father, the one who conceived and created her and redeemed her. Are we
different than Elizabeth? Or are we the same? Does God’s Word act in the same
manner in Elizabeth’s life as it acts in yours and mine? Or is it different?
It’s the same seed.
It is satanic. It is satanic to be
led to think we can qualify, quantify, or somehow judge in a perceptible manner
and in an accurate manner at all times the growth of His church or, for that
matter, our own growth. There are times when we feel like we’ve taken one step
forward and have fallen three steps back and think, Why in the world, Lord?
What is the problem with me? She didn’t ask such questions, did she. Why
are we? Because we are tempted daily and moment by moment to think we can judge
and perceive with some kind of assurance of truth what things appear as, and
Scripture is very clear this morning. It is a mystery. We know the seed is
planted, and we know it’s harvested. That’s all we know. In-between, it grows
imperceptibly, sometimes unmeasurably, but we know it does grow.
Sometimes we tend to want to
quantify things to prove their validity or their effectiveness. Whether there
are five hundred people in this congregation worshiping on any given day or
five, God’s Word is still the same. God’s work of that Word in their hearts is
still the same. Whether there are ten people in each of our classrooms at our
school or twenty-five and they’re filled, God’s Work is still being done. His
Word is still being planted and nourished and there still is harvest being
done. It’s just that we don’t always get to see the harvest, do we? I was
blessed to see that harvest. I don’t get to see it always. There’s many
people’s lives, just like the people in your lives, who your lives have touched
and you wonder, Is it going to do any good? Especially parents and
grandparents who wonder about their offspring. Why are they not in church
like they once were? Why are they not worshiping like they once were? Does
God’s Word not come back to Him accomplishing something? It seems as if it’s
all gone, and nothing is perceptible if there’s nothing there.
Now, that’s one thing that being
here in the great State of Texas has shown me. Oh, my stars. In the midst of
some dead ground, every spring does those crazy things called bluebonnets pop
up. Hardly any rain and they still come up. And, in fact, it looks like they
only come up when it’s rocky and completely horrible looking, and then it lays
dormant for a whole long time until next spring. That’s how God’s Word works.
He only gives us these little snapshots for our benefit, because he knows how
we are tempted by our own flesh and Satan in this world to think we can
God be praised that there is a
planting and there is a harvesting, and privately, we gather here to hear again
about these parables that are mysteries enough to us, let alone to the people
outside the church. Be comforted, brothers and sisters. His Word is powerful
and efficacious. He said, “Remain in me and you shall bear fruit, for apart
from me you can do nothing.” And He promised to lead you into all truth.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
heart and your mind on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.