When god created the world, everything was “very good.” In that perfection, man was able to hear the Word of God rightly. Adam and Eve’s hearts were, by nature, good soil. The Word could take root and yield a hundredfold harvest. There was only faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. Unfortunately, the sower in today’s Parable isn’t the only sower. The devil also sows. He sows the seeds of doubt and unbelief. He sowed those seeds in Adam and Eve and there was an immediate harvest of death. Man fell into sin and lost the image of his Creator and the perfect relationship between God and His creation was destroyed. Because of sin, man’s heart now has rocks, thorns, trampling feet, and demonic, devouring birds, all ready to destroy the seed of faith and its fruits. Each seed bears fruit according to its kind, and we are now in the image and likeness of Adam, marred by sin, and we, too, are inheritors and breeders of sin and death. No one is exempt from this death-causing sin.
But we know, and as we will hear in just a few weeks, God did not leave things that way. Immediately after the Fall God made a promise and became the Sower of another Seed. The Seed of the Woman, that is, Jesus, would come to destroy death, to crush the devil, to overcome the world, to give new life to all.
So, the competing sowers sowed through the generations. The devil spread his seeds of false doctrine, of consequence-free sin, of death. The patriarchs and prophets pointed to the Messiah, casting abroad the goodly seed of the Word to all who would hear. And then came that promised Seed, Jesus Himself, who continues to sow the seeds of faith through His Word. He preached that God loves all people, despite the original and ongoing rebellion of sinful man. That’s what Jesus Parables are about—they give us insight into the Kingdom of Heaven, into the heart of God.
And what does the Parable of the Sower reveal about the Kingdom, about God? It reveals that God gives lavishly, with reckless abandon. He isn’t driving a tractor, plowing and planting in neat rows, only where the soil is guaranteed to yield a good harvest. He sticks his hand into the bag of seed and throws it everywhere, regardless of where it might land. The Word goes out to all people. No one is left out of the proclamation that God has kept His promise to save sinners. It doesn’t matter what the heart, the soil, is like when the seed gets there. It doesn’t matter if the heart is hard, if it’s not capable of supporting roots, or if it’s full of weeds and thorns that will choke the seed. The seed is good, and it does something miraculous. It changes the soil. No one is by nature receptive. No one is by nature disposed to do good, to love God, to keep the Law. No one deserves heaven. This is all about generosity, about super-abundance, about the Gospel going out to all the corners of the earth.
The good soil in which the seed takes root and bears a harvest is faith. Faith is the only thing that can receive the Gospel, can hold onto it, that can produce good works. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing transforms the soil. The seed changes the soil through hearing. The Gospel creates what is necessary to receive it! The sinner is converted and becomes a child of God. Christ’s righteousness and His love are planted in the sinner by the Word of God and as He continues to water and nourish that seed it bears fruit of faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.
Your hearts have been made good soil by Christ. He has converted you by the Word and recreated you in the water of Holy Baptism. Your heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh. And still that Word of Christ is planted in your heart to keep you in the true faith.
But don’t forget about the other sower. The devil doesn’t stop his work just because the Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel. You are still in this world, you still have flesh that loves to sin. The devil, the world, and your sinful nature will never stop their attacks. Faith can be lost by apathy towards the Word and by willful disobedience. Temptations are real, and sin is serious. God doesn’t shrug and dismiss it when you sin, when you break the Commandments, when you despise His good and gracious gifts. These are the thorns and thistles of your life that threaten to choke your faith. As Jesus says, out of the heart proceeds all uncleanness and evil, so the heart constantly needs to be rescued from these thorns. This happens when the Word of the Law does its work of convicting of sin and you respond in the only Christian way—humbling yourself, repenting, seeking to do better, and believing that God saves sinners. You are going to sin. But the Lord provides the way out through repentance, faith, and restoration.
These things are daily threats. That’s why the words of todays Collect are comforting for us: “O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity.” Trust is another word for faith. God is the Strength of all who have faith in Him. He defends you from adversity and generously gives forgiveness every time you repent. The Parable of the Sower is about the lavish riches of the Kingdom of God given to you through Christ’s death and resurrection. With God, it’s never about having enough, it’s about superabundance, more than you need. When Jesus died on the cross He forgave all your sins in the past, in the present, and in the future. There is no sin that He has not and cannot forgive.
That Word of forgiveness and live in Jesus’ Name goes out through all the world through faithful preachers who sow the Word of the Gospel. And the Holy Spirit is at work in that faithful proclamation to turn rocky, thorny, bird-infested fields into good soil that inherits heaven, that produces a harvest a hundredfold. You have been converted, heaven is yours. God gives lavishly, and He gives to you.
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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.