We tend to think of the Parable of the Sower as a commentary on evangelism. As congregations spread the Word of God, the majority of our work will not result in a harvest. A remarkable 75% of the effort appears to be wasted as faith is either never created at all, or quickly meets its demise. Only 25% of the Word yields a harvest. While this does give some insight into why every congregation isn’t bursting at the seams and planting new churches every year, it’s not the main reason why Jesus tells the Parable. Three verses after the Parable Jesus tells us why He told it. He said, “Take care, then, how you hear.” That’s a sobering sentence. “Take care, then, how you hear.” The Parable of the Sower isn’t about analyzing everyone else and how they responded to the Word. The Parable of the Sower is about me taking a look at my own life to realize that I have not been careful in how I heard and received the Word.
God has promised to give everyone what is appropriate, what they need to sustain this body and life. Christ Himself reminded us God takes care of the birds, the flowers, the grasses, and everything else. If He knows the plight of something as seemingly insignificant as grass, which grows wherever and however it wants, how much more will He take care of us?
This Sunday was also the kickoff for Epiphany's 25th Anniversary celebrations.
'Tis good, Lord, to be here! We sing what St. Peter spoke, a confession that it’s good to be in the presence of Jesus, to get a glimpse of heaven. It’s good to see an end to the sin and misery and junk that is a part of life in this world. But what about when we have to leave that glimpse? What about when we, like Peter, James, and John have to go back to the plain? Today we have Jesus’ promise that He goes with us to the plain, through the valley of the shadow of death. Today we hear His promise that what we glimpsed for a fleeting moment will be ours eternally.
We all know the feeling of drowning. Maybe not actual drowning in water, but at least metaphorical drowning. You know what it feels like when you can’t keep your head above water, when there seems to be no reprieve from the waves of life crashing over the side of your little boat. The situation in which the disciples found themselves in today’s Gospel is entirely relatable. First comes the panic, then the expectation of help which does not arrive, followed by a call to the Lord for help. What’s the most troubling in our hour of need isn’t the trouble itself. We know how to overcome disaster, and often fare better afterwards than we had before. What’s the most troubling is that realization that we aren’t in control of our own lives, that, despite the façade of self-reliance, we are completely reliant on God for every good gift which we enjoy. Though life’s troubles bring a rebuke for not trusting the One whom even the winds and sea obey, we are reminded of the promise that our God has all things under His control.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.