A sermon preached on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on July 26, 2020.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear
Pastor Johnson introduces the service by saying:
The gospel lesson for today, that the entire service is built on, is the parable of the Sower of the Seed. We will begin our worship by reading this lesson because it not only is the basis for the entire worship service, it is also the basis for the sermon. But the sermon Pastor Werre will preach will not be for 20 minutes at the usual spot, but will be preached through this entire service. Hear now, the parable of the Sower and the Seed. (after the gospel lesson is read, say, “We join now in our opening hymn, #735, “Speak, O Lord.”
We sing Hymn #735, “Speak, O Lord”, v.1-2. Then:
Which kind of soil were you as we sang the opening hymn? Are you aware that, the second we started to sing and God’s Word was being proclaimed out loud, Satan jumped into our church to snatch the words away from you? Jesus described it this way in our gospel lesson, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the Word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was sown in them.” Or are you like the seed that fell on the shallow, rocky soil that had no root? Glad to sing, but your feelings are kind of shallow and by the time we get to the Scripture lessons, you’ll find that you starting to get bored? Or are you like the seed that gets choked out by the thorns of the worries of the week and concerns of money, so that by Tuesday or Wednesday, these words you just sang will be choked out and so forgotten that they make no difference? Or are you like the good soil? That the words you sang stick with you. Maybe you can’t quote them this week, but the attitude, the truth of the words and their beauty—it has changed you? Which kind of soil were you as you sang the opening hymn?
We continue with the Invocation, Confession, Absolution, p.38. After the Absolution and before we sing #735 v.3:
Which kind of soil were you as you confessed your sins and received God’s forgiveness through the pastor? Again, you do realize that Satan immediately started running around our church to snatch these words away from you, as Jesus described it, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the Word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was sown in them.” Or are you like the seed that fell on the shallow, rocky soil that had no root? Glad to confess and receive forgiveness, but it’s kind of a shallow gladness so that by night, in less than 12 hours, if you need to forgive someone, Christ’s forgiveness of you won’t make any difference? Or were you like the seed that gets choked out by the thorns of the worries of the week and concerns of money, so that by Tuesday or Wednesday, these words you just heard are choked out? Or are you like the good soil? That these words stick with you. These words of your own desperate need for God’s forgiveness stick with you and make you a little more patient with your fellow sinners? And the words Pastor Johnson proclaimed to you of Christ’s forgiveness stick with you, bring you comfort this week, make you want to do better each day in living like a Christian in a world that desperately needs Christians? The word of that forgiveness which was so expensive, for it was bought at the price of the blood of God; forgiveness that is as big as the universe and as personal as your own name, as your baptism proves. What kind of soil were you as you confessed your sin and heard God’s forgiveness in Christ proclaimed to you?
We sing the Song of Praise (v.3 of #735), have the Prayer of the Day, Read Acts 18:1-22, sing the General Verse of the Day, then:
Which kind of soil were you as we read the Scripture lesson and sang the General Verse of the Day (which is John 20:31)? For as soon as Pastor Johnson started to read, I hope you are aware that Satan immediately jumped into our church to snatch them away from you, as Jesus said, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the Word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was sown in them.” Or were you like the seed that fell on the shallow, rocky soil that had no root? Glad to listen to the Word which is teaching us to LISTEN TO THE WORD, but your gladness is kind of shallow; and this week when the pressure of time comes (that’s what the Greek word means, when Christ says, “But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble (thlipsis=pressure, under the thumb) comes…he quickly falls away.”)—you will skip having your devotions? Or were you like the seed that gets choked out by the thorns of the worries of the week and concerns of money, so that by Tuesday or Wednesday your intention to have daily devotions gets choked out of you? Or are you like the good soil? That the words you heard today stick with you. And you repeat to yourself what you learn in his place. And you are given courage that makes you tougher than your feelings of not having enough time for your daily devotion and so you make time for your daily devotion anyway; in fact, these words make you so tough you are even tougher than death itself if that should come this week. Because you have the toughest thing of all—the salvation and love of God in Christ, who has promised, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) Not in life. Not in death. What kind of soil were you as you listened to the Scripture lessons and sang the General Verse of the Day?
We sing the Hymn of the Day #324, “Almighty God, Your Word is Cast” v.1-4, then:
As you perhaps have already caught on, when Christ described the four different kinds of soil, the four ways the Word might be received, he was not only describing four different kinds of people, he was also describing just one person. You. Just you. And the four ways you receive the Word. Just in this one worship service alone, each of us likely has been all four kinds of soil already—and we aren’t even done yet! I know this because of the testimony of the Scriptures and because I am exactly the same way. I am all four kinds of soil in any given worship service or on any given day.
There is a terrible warning in this. The first three kinds of soil—the word getting snatched away, the shallow reception of the Word, the Word getting choked out of our hearts–those come natural to us. Those are as natural to us as lying in the mud is natural for a pig. For our hearts are by nature muddy, sinful, polluted. This explains, in part, why members of our own church drift way, or reject some of our teachings, why so many Christian churches who claim to teach the Bible can end up teaching so much false doctrine. It all comes from a faulty hearing of the Word of God, which comes naturally to us, as natural as lying in the mud is for a pig.
Christ’s warning is—if you let those kinds of hearing dominate you, you will die in your sin. And you will permanently and eternally regret—like you have never regretted before—that you didn’t take Christ seriously when he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
But that fourth kind of soil, the good soil that receives the Word sown into it and produces a harvest—that is a miracle. A miracle worked by the Holy Spirit as you pay attention to the Word you are hearing. As you pay attention to the Word, listen to it. For the Holy Spirit has chosen to do this miracle in us through words, his Word.
Have you ever considered how powerful, almost magically powerful, words are? Words/communication are the way, the only way, one person can break into another person’s loneliness and discover what is going on inside of them. Are you familiar with the story of Helen Keller? She was deaf, blind, utterly alone in a dark, soundless world. Until one day an astounding thing happened—as her teacher, Anne Sullivan, signed the letters w-a-t-e-r into her hand while running cold water over her other hand…and she understood. Her world was blown wide open, her lonely, dark world finally had company and she was no longer alone .
Our Lord uses his words to do that with us, break into our lonely, dark worlds, bridge that lonely gap between a ginormous, holy God like himself and a little sinful human being like you or me. With words, his Word. For his words are true (though not always what we want to hear), his words are clear (though not always easy), and most of all, his words are about Christ. The one who loved us so much he died a horrible death on the cross so that he could have us with him forever in heaven. Given the depth of that kind of love, don’t you think that whatever he decided was so important that he had to write it down in his Book for us is worth putting daily effort into listening to? As our Lord put it so simply, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
What are you using for your daily devotions this week? If you want some help with that, call or text or email Pastor Johnson or myself. Or go to our church’s Facebook page and Pastor Johnson will each day walk you through a portion of the Bible (currently in the book of Acts) May our Lord richly bless your devotional life this week…and see you next week. Amen.