Devotion for Thursday, July 16, 2020
Lectionary Readings for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost:
Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Collect: Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we
may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with
You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymns of the Day: “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast” – (LSB 577)
Good Afternoon. I’ll start off, again this week, by apologizing for not getting this out yesterday, but unfortunately, I forgot. Plain and simple. I had good intentions when I was on my way in yesterday morning, I was thinking about what I’d be writing, and then my train of thought got derailed as I was distracted by other concerns that responsibilities that popped up. When I got into the office, I set up and instead of reading the lessons from last week, I opened the ones for this coming Sunday, and instead got to work on my sermon for Sunday morning. Both of these tasks were important, yes, but one should have come before the other.
I know I’m not alone in this, as we all fall prey to distraction by the secondary things in our lives and often lose sight of the things that are most important to us as a result of a minor situation, or complication, or just plain distraction popping up out of the blue.
This is something that Jesus addresses briefly and even warns us about in this past Sunday’s Gospel lesson.
“7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. … 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 8:7; 22)
Before you start saying that this isn’t want the parable is about, look again. He doesn’t say that the seed is faith, He tells us that the seed being cast is the Word, and you, my fellow redeemed, didn’t just hear the Word once and then were done.
Yes, St. Paul tells us that, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) but Jesus here, in this parable, is talking about more than just that first time, He’s talking about every time the sower goes out to cast seed and what kinds of ground he comes across, even when he’s out in the field he’s supposed to be seeding in.
Where is your focus, what are you thinking about, when we hear the Word of God? Are you sitting in church, or in front of your computer screen, wholly focusing on what’s going on, or are the troubles and worries of your life distracting you…or is it even less than the troubles and worries, is it just mild concerns and distractions? What will I have for lunch? I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. What will I do this afternoon for fun? I can’t believe so and so isn’t wearing a mask, don’t they know how dangerous that is? Etc. We let things both big and small distract us. We are so busy trying to be Marthas, getting everything done that we think needs doing, that we forget that Jesus wants us to be Marys, to sit at His feet and focus on him and what He’s telling us, especially when we have specifically set aside time to do just that.
How often do you come to God’s house, or gather around His Word at home, while not entirely focused on what you are doing? How often do the seeds cast by the pastor, or by the Word itself as you read it, bounce off a hardened path, not believing what’s what it says because our world today disagrees with it; disagrees with God and His teachings? How often do you hear the Word and share it excitedly, just to be rebuked by an unbelieving friend, or even a doubting Christian, and so your whole hearted agreement with a passage of Scripture becomes muted, or even ignored because of the pressures of those around you, whether family or friend? How often do you hear the Word and then after share it with others, producing fruit 30, 60 and 100 fold what was planted in you? If we’re being honest, the first few examples happen more often than that last one.
It’s so easy to turn this parable into a work that you need to do: You need to till that soil! You need to make sure your heart is ready to Hear God’s Word! You need to make sure that you don’t put obstacles in the way of God giving His gifts to you! It’s so easy to say that, but it’s also so wrong. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. Yes, He’s warning us, be He is also encouraging us. There is Law, yes, but there is also ample Gospel.
He’s warning us of the dangers of the world, and yes, that we need to be mindful of them, but more importantly, He’s showing us why He had to come in the first place. Christ came to earth precisely because we are such poor soil. He came because He knew our hearts and minds needed tilling and fertilizing. He came to produce the fruit that we couldn’t, the fruit of complete and total obedience to God – perfect love for God and perfect love for His neighbour. He came to win our salvation for us – to prepare the ground so that when that seed is planted, it would produce fruit, not because the ground is so healthy and good, but because the seed is that powerful.
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, God has prepared your soil, He has planted the seed. Through the work of the Holy Spirit using the means of grace, both Word and Sacrament, He continues to work around the roots, feeding the tree, and helping it to produce that which it was planted to produce. But you are not just a lone tree in an empty field. In many ways, your faith is a veritable orchard producing much fruit – the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruit hang from your branches and are used by God to feed others. Used by God to plant more seed into the hearts of others through your words and actions.
So yes, while we make many, many, many mistakes, God still uses us. He still casts out His seed into our lives regularly, and as the Old Testament lesson from Sunday reminds us, His Word, that wonderful seed, “shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” So take heart, while you may be distracted from His Word by the troubles and trials of this life more often than you’d like to admit, God is always there with His free forgiveness when you turn to Him in repentance. He is always there, ready to forgive, ready to till the soil, and ready to plant more seed.