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Sexagesima – Luke 8:4-15

by pastorjuhl ~ February 25th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

We continue our Gesimatide series on the threefold focus of our Synod: WITNESS, MERCY, and LIFE TOGETHER. Last week we heard about the Father’s MERCY in choosing us to labor in His vineyard until we ascend with Him to the heavenly Vineyard. This week we focus on the WITNESS of the parable of the sower.

Christ’s parable in Luke chapter eight is a WITNESS of a mystery. The mystery isn’t about the seed sowed by the sower. The mystery is in the soil that receives or, in three out of four instances, does not receive the seed sowed.

Contrary to what some in the Christian Church might think, the Word that goes forth from [the Lord’s] mouth…shall not return to [Him] void, but it shall accomplish what [He] please[s], and it shall prosper in the thing for which [He] sent it. The problem is not the seed sowed. Nevertheless, Christians seemingly ignore Isaiah chapter 55 and mix in all kinds of pokes and prods to make God’s Word work.

Consider so-called “spiritual gifts” like “holy laughter”, speaking in tongues, or some other so-called manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic Christians do not trust the Word to do what it says. They say a water baptism is just that: a water baptism. If charismatic signs do not follow, then you are not truly saved. What damage they do to a believer when they expect that person to “manifest the Spirit” in some way. If such a manifestation doesn’t happen, then that person’s salvation may be in jeopardy.

Less sensational but equally poisonous to a believer is when a Christian congregation shows signs of becoming a personality cult. Phrases like “Church just isn’t church without Pastor So-and-so there” come from well-meaning people who attend Divine Service only because they like the pastor, or because he is “uplifting”, “vivacious”, “handsome”, or a “go getter”. All of these things are good personality types that are helpful for a pastor to endear himself to his flock. However, if someone joins a congregation not because of what is preached but because of how a pastor preaches or conducts the service, then that someone is in for a letdown when their beloved pastor goes elsewhere and another pastor takes his place.

We want a “magic bullet” of success in both the Church as well as the world. If only we knew what to do to guarantee no worries about money and health. Nothing would be impossible with the magic bullet in our possession. Three steps to full pews! Five methods of increasing offerings! Seven ways to stay away from the doctor! The Ten Commandments of happiness at home! Everything would be peachy keen if only we had the right formulas.

That’s not how Holy Scripture measures success. When Jesus concludes His “Bread of Life” discourse in John chapter six, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. His preaching no longer “did it” for them. Who wants to follow a preacher Who says unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you?

Saint Paul measures success in failure in today’s Epistle: If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity…. It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast…. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. The next two verses after today’s Epistle say: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.

It is refreshing to measure success in the Christian Church by failure. When we fail to grow the Church by our own reason or strength, we are ready to let go and let God. The only measure of success in the Christian Church is the faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. No human being would ever consider making Christ’s horrible death upon two beams of wood on behalf of horrible sinners the cornerstone of the one true religion on earth. Yet the death of Jesus Christ our Lord and the benefits we receive from His death and subsequent resurrection have nurtured the Christian Church for two millennia.

“Though some be snatched and some be scorched/ And some be choked and matted flat, / The sower sows; his heart cries out, / ‘Oh, what of that, and what of that’ ” (LSB 586:4). The mysterious WITNESS of the Christian Church is winning by losing. To win eternal life for us, Jesus came in the form of a loser and died a loser’s death in order that we might become winners of His forgiveness and life. That’s the seed the sower sows. Some seed is snatched. Some seed is scorched. Some seed is trampled underfoot. It’s not God’s fault. There will be those who allow the cares and pleasures of this world to harm the seed. It’s their fault.

“Of all his scattered plenteousness/ One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat, / And bears a harvest hundredfold: / ‘Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that’ ” (LSB 586:5)! One out of four won’t get us much in the world. In the Church, if one out of one hundred brings fullness of joy, think of what one out of four brings! What of that, Lord! If there’s one besides pastor to say “Amen” to the Means of Grace, then that’s something to rejoice in the Lord. One is more than none.

Our WITNESS as Christians in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is one of pure doctrine from the pure, clear fountain of Israel that is God’s Word. Our WITNESS is also not merely staying home with that pure doctrine of Christ’s forgiveness and life. We are given to speak of our hope in Christ wherever God puts us in our stations in life. The best evangelism program in the Christian Church is doing what God gives you to do every day, waiting patiently for opportunities to WITNESS His MERCY in Christ Jesus. Those who rest in Him will have LIFE TOGETHER here in time and hereafter in eternity. What of that indeed!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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