Monday, July 17, 2017

Sermon July 15-16, 2017

Title: Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

A man, after 25 years with one company, was still doing the same old job and drawing the same salary. Finally he went to his boss and told him he felt he had been neglected. "After all," he said, "I've had a quarter of a century of experience." "My dear fellow," sighed the boss, "you haven't had a quarter of a century of experience you've had one experience for a quarter of a century."



When I worked in sales in the piano business and began waiting on customers there’s a principal we all learned: It is called the “KISS Principle,” as in, K-I-S-S: And it means, Keep It Simple, Stupid! In other words, if you want people to understand what you’re saying, and in my case showing them the benefits of owning a piano, I was reminded by the KISS Principal … to keep it simple. Don’t talk to technical or in ways that people can’t understand what you are really trying to say.

It seems a bit strange then that Jesus would use parables or stories that were something like a riddle at times to teach the crowd. How will they learn from these parables? Wouldn’t this complicate understanding? The disciples even asked about this: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v 10).

Actually, hearing God’s Word with understanding isn’t just a matter of “getting” the parables. Understanding God’s Word is hard anytime, and there are good reasons for this, but particularly when Jesus speaks in parables.

Jesus knows his audience well. There are things He knows that are keeping them from hearing and understanding what He is saying. Jesus teaches his disciples that even though 12 the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, Heb 4:12, the hearer – which is you and me - in our sinful state has the ability to resist and misunderstand God’s word.

As Luther says in the explanation of the Third Article of The apostles Creed:

I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

We understand that faith is a gift of our loving God. So what is it that keeps us from hearing … understanding and bearing fruit?

First, Jesus says, it’s the devil. He is like the birds that come and snatch the seed off the path. Certainly, we all can attest that the devil exists … because we notice the sinfulness of our thoughts even, at times as we wonder off while listening to a sermon. No that would never happen.

What are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking about what you did last night or what you might do after church? Whatever it is … you can be sure that the devil will shorten your attention span and even introduce thoughts into your mind … that have no business being there at this time!

[Edited: Story of attending a funeral for a classmate and how though the funeral had many good points and opened the ears of those who needed to hear there was one speaker who closed the ears of all by talking too long, being unfocused, and turning the funeral into a Bible Study so that the loved ones having ears closed had to lead him back to his seat. We need to know when to speak and when to hold back and just love those who are hurting before they close their ears to the message.]

The second thing Jesus says is that it’s your flesh. The sinful flesh, yours and mine, looks for the next spiritual high. As long as everything is going well, we’re all for the Word. But when problems arise, or when tribulation and persecution come, we’re quick to abandon the word and leave it far behind. This is like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more palatable and to our liking.

[Edited: Contrasting a funeral I officiated at on the previous Tuesday evening that had many ears opened and the evangelizing work of Robert Fisher who was a member of Peace and had passed away and how he brought Jesus to many through his mentoring in AA. One man said Bob was his sponsor and mentor for 17 years ... "He literally saved my life!" The value of word and dead to keep the ears open and the message received.]

Third, Jesus says it’s the world. We have many cares, some that even steal away the joy of listening to the Word. Yes, at times the word of God is joyful but we have work to do, whether from our employer or a teacher at school or even well intention friends. We may be concerned about our income, our children, the rising expenses of health care, and other essentials to our life – as our costs go up … sometime our income goes down. What to do?

When you deprive yourself of preaching and the word you steal the Good News God wants you to hear.

The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh make up the unholy trinity that keeps us from hearing and bearing fruit – they block the word if you will. The meaning of the Third Commandment, thou shall keep Holy the Sabbath day, calls on hearers not to despise preaching and God’s Word. It needs to be “set apart” which is what holy means, yet when you are listening problems and a lack of understanding happen and then this is precisely what occurs. The Preaching … and God’s Word are both despised.

But God’s Word is heard, and when it is - understood - what blessings! 

Jesus said to the Twelve,

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (vv 16–17).

How does that happen? Jesus answered the disciples’ question this way:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (vv 11–13).

Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word is given; it’s a gift.

You have just been gifted … Just now. Again … you have been given the Spirit of God in Christ. For many of you, that first happened at your Baptism. Your eyes have been opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. And you continue to hear God’s Word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life … just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.

With his death on the cross, Jesus has conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. This gives us the authority and the comfort to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This evil is not just some impotent, inanimate, impersonal substance. It is the evil one, who steals the Word from our hearts, who tempts us with suffering, and coaxes the world to follow him.

But our Lord has overcome the evil one, and in faith in his victory we may pray confidently and resist the snares and traps he sets. Our Lord has chosen you – dear friend - to receive this gift of faith so that you may hear and understand. This is grace and grace alone. No merit on your part has caused this, but our Lord and his love for you give it freely.

Jesus teaches the disciples to sow the Word of God liberally. There are no places, regardless of their potential to grow, where the Word of God may not or should not be preached. The Sower, in the parable is spreading seed everywhere … over the path, the rocks, and the weedy areas. That’s because God’s grace is for everyone. Everybody who hears the words you have heard today may be certain that Jesus really has died and has risen for them, has forgiven them, has given them eternal salvation.

Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


No comments:

Post a Comment