Sunday, February 12, 2012

Homily for Sexagesima



Luke 8:4-15; 2 Corinthians 11:19 – 12:9; Isaiah 55:10-13

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

You must notice the nonchalant, almost cavalier way your Lord speaks about preaching? He presents to you a sower who went out to sow his seed. And, as your Lord tells the story, the sower sowed his seed indiscriminately, the vast majority of it falling amongst rocks, thorns, and thistles, and a quarter of the seed even falling upon the hard, beat down path where it is trampled underfoot and is eaten by the birds. Further, as Jesus told this parable to the crowds who followed Him, He cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He might as well have said, “Understand this, if you are able” or “Let the wise be wise, and the foolish foolish.”

Jesus’ point, of course, is that, while soil must be of a certain quality to produce fruit, so too men’s hearts must be of a certain quality in order to produce the fruit of love in good works in service of their neighbor. It is not enough that the seed merely make contact with soil, for, unless the seed can penetrate the soil, grow a strong root, and receive proper nourishment, light, and water it cannot, and it will not, produce fruit. Likewise, though all men have ears, and most hear sounds quite well, still most do not hear the Word of God and receive it as seed in good soil. Indeed, even men who are physically deaf and unable to hear are, nevertheless, able to hear the Word of God and receive it in faith and hold it fast in an honest and good heart, bearing fruit with patience.

But, this is precisely what Isaiah prophesied concerning the Word of God saying, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” As the rain and the snow fall upon the entirety of the earth indiscriminately, and not only upon the rich, tilled, and weeded soil of the fields, so does the Word of God go out into the world.

And, what is the result of this preaching? What is the result of such indiscriminate sowing of God’s Word? Is it not that the soil of men’s hearts is exposed for what it truly is, stony soil, thorn and thistle infested soil, rock-hard soil that cannot even receive the seed of the Word? For, you must understand that the failure to produce fruit does not rest with the seed, but with the soil. The seed of the Word of God is life-giving, creative, and powerful; it will accomplish that for which it was sent. But, what about the soil? What about the condition of men’s hearts? If the soil of the heart is good – that is, if it has been broken, de-stoned, and weeded through repentance and contrition over sins, then it will receive the seed of the Word of God and the seed will begin to do its work, producing fruit. But, if the soil of the heart is hard and impenetrable, filled through with stones, and infested with thorns and thistles, will not the good seed of God’s Word expose the soil of the heart for what it is? This is why Jesus says “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” God’s Word is either received in repentance and humility or it is rejected in unbelief. If it is received, that is due to God’s grace and the creative power of His Word. If it is rejected, then man’s heart remains what it already and truly is, hard and dead. We all have ears, but not all hear the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing, but hearing comes by the Word of God. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

For, surely you aware that there is no such thing as pre-tilled soil, but all soil is either hard, stony, or infested with weeds, thorns, and thistles. In order to sow seeds, with the hope of producing fruit, soil must be worked and broken, it must be tilled, de-stoned, and weeded. And, soil doesn’t till, de-stone, and weed itself, does it? But, the good seed of God’s Word has the power to break the hardened heart, to pluck out the stones, and to pull the weeds with the preaching of the Law that you might turn in repentance. And, when faith is created, it is nurtured and nourished, pruned and cultivated over time, by trial and tribulation, that it may grow and bear fruit in patience.

In another parable, that of the wheat and the tares, Jesus told His disciples that it was an enemy who had sown the tares in with the wheat. Indeed, from the moment the seed of God’s Word is sown in the hearts of men, the devil begins his attack. Satan snatches the Word away from hard hearts. The riches and pleasures of this life choke off faith. Shallow and emotional belief withers in time of temptation and trouble.

But, take heart, for Christ has borne this attack for you. Christ’s cross was planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Satan and His demons hellishly hounded and devoured Him. Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed these enemies of yours. Jesus is Himself the Seed which fell to the ground and died in order that it might sprout forth to new life and produce much grain. He is the vine and you are His branches; baptized into Him, you remain in Him and He remains you, that you will bear much fruit.

And Jesus is the seed of the woman Eve, planted in the virgin soil of Mary’s womb. When the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, He took your flesh, through death, into life, crushing the serpent’s head, and rising again, the first fruits of those who die in Him, a hundredfold.

The Word of God is good seed. It is always efficacious. Whether it be preached to hardened, stony, or thorn infested hearts, or even good soil, it matters not, for the Word of God will not return to Him void, but it will accomplish that for which it was sent. It alone has the power to bring something out of nothing. It alone has the power to create and sustain faith. And it alone has the power to till hardened, stony, and thorn infested hearts and cause them to bear fruit, a harvest a hundredfold.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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