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Sexagesima, Sixty Days to Easter
“To You It Has Been Given”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 8.4-15
16 February 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, [Jesus] said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ (St. Luke 8.9-10)
Dear disciples: “to you it has been given” – the supreme gift of God. You have been given the mighty Word of God. God is gracious and recklessly sews His Word all over this world. That includes you. The saving Word of God, the Word about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, the living Word revealed by Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists under inspiration of the Holy Spirit: that has been sewn in you.
The disciples of Jesus did not immediately understand this parable. They received the Word as we do, by grace, as a gift. This gift of the Word is a mystery, that which can only be revealed by God to people. The disciples do not have perfect faith, or perfect good works by which to somehow earn this gift of the Word. Rather, Jesus gives His Word to them. The parable makes the disciples hunger for the things of God, to hear more from their Lord, to seek an explanation from Jesus. That’s faith. They want more of the gift from God. That will bear fruit.
Today’s parable is a warning. To you it has been given by God as a holy gift. So there are those who would take it away from you. So keep on hearing. Later, Jesus will say that whoever hears the Word of God and does it are His mother and brothers, His family. What will the final fate of the Word of God be in His family? What will sustain and keep saving faith in Christ despite the work of the devil in this world against you?
I encourage you each day as Christians to be seeking the Word of God, in some way, great or small. As Luther writes in His catechism hymn, we are to “…pray, and put aside the work you do, so that God may work in you. Have mercy Lord.”
I’ve really taken to spending less time in the car travelling with music or other secular radio playing and to make use of a Bluetooth device that broadcasts downloaded podcasts on my iPhone through my car stereo. There are many confessional Lutheran, Biblical podcasts going out. For one, you can download each Sunday’s sermon from us to review (https://www.ielcth.org/ielc/podcast).
I’ve taken up all Issues, Etc programming on the Small Catechism where faithful pastors are interviewed for thirty or so minutes about a part of the Catechism. The host, Pastor Todd Wilkin, also interviews pastors and others on current events, cultural trends, and pop culture – everything from reviewing current movies and television shows from a Lutheran perspective, to Lutheran journalist Molly Hemingway analyzing the latest events in Washington. One pastor is interviewed each week about the upcoming Sunday’s readings, called “Looking ahead to Sunday morning.”
We have a page on our website with suggested podcasts. Three young LCMS pastors delve into Lutheran theology on the podcast, “A Word Fitly Spoken” in a very easy, laid back conversation. Pastor Wil Weedon studies the Gospel of John a few verses a day in “The Word of the Lord Grows”… you have many resources to faithfully feed you more of God’s saving Word to supplement what you receive here in the Divine Service. You also have your hymnal, your Small Catechism, and a host of devotion books like the Treasury of Daily Prayer, which is also available as an app.
In addition, one of the best ways to get to know and meet your fellow Christians is to come be here for offered Bible classes on Sunday morning and other days. Our Wednesday morning Coffee Break Bible Study on 1 Samuel could always use a few more participants if you’re available.
Which brings up something we’ve seen from studying 1 Samuel. The people of Israel after the time of the Judges were not good at putting aside the work they do and listening to God’s Word. They had a corrupt High Priest and priests. The tabernacle became a scandalous place. Eventually the Israelites take the Ark of the Covenant from the Most Holy Place and try to use it as a good luck charm in a battle against the Philistines. They are routed and lose the Ark. The tabernacle worship instituted by God comes to a halt, even after Israel gets the Ark back.
No surprise then that Israel begs the prophet Samuel for an earthly king to lead them like other nations have when God is supposed to be their King. God agrees to give them what they want – to allow things to get really bad to discipline His people. When God allows Saul from the tribe of Benjamin to be selected, they have a king who does not know God’s Word, does not know the prophet Samuel, does not know or accept the gravity of the office God calls him to, and spends quite a bit of time initially searching fruitlessly for his father’s lost oxen rather than driving out the heathen Philistines from the Promised Land.
The first thirteen chapters of 1 Samuel have not been a happy history of Israel to study, the stories at times have been hard to read, and yet they bear this fruit: eventually God is going to raise up a man after His own heart to be king, David the Bethlehem shepherd boy, of the tribe of Judah, from whom the Savior of us all would descend. God is at work even in dark days sewing, to men who like or like it not a Word that shall endure and stand when flowers and men and their oxen and their kings and other cares shall be forgot.
The great theme of the week of Sexagesima is that the Lord, by the preaching and teaching of His Word, is bringing forth that which He purposes, namely, the righteousness of faith in those who hear and believe it. Saul and much of Israel did not believe and rejected the Word, rejected the seed God planted in them. They cared more for the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. They did not have ears to hear. They become hardened against God and His Word, even enemies and despisers of it.
But to those who hear the Word of God and keep it and do it – who believe in Christ as Savior and Lord – for the faithful Samuels who are lowly voices planting God’s Word in dark, rocky, thorny places – God raises up an unimaginable harvest. How could Samuel the prophet, one voice of the Word of God in an Israel gone off the rails, ever have imagined that you would sit here today, a hundredfold miracle harvest of all that God has said to us in His Holy Scriptures? He could not imagine it, except by faith in the promise of a Savior and a new Israel who would follow that Savior.
There is a reason that we do not call Jesus’ parable “the parable of the four different soils.” To do so would distract us, for we would naturally want to look at our own hearts and ask, “What kind of soil am I?”
Any answer we give would be wrong. “I am good soil” is presumptive and ignores your sinful condition, the sinful flesh that clings to you. “I am rocky/hard/thorny soil” is to adjudge the Sower as foolish and mistaken in His sowing.
Rather, the parable is descriptive of how the divine Word is attacked and choked out in us, the real danger that we Christians face. Like it was attacked and choked out of Saul and the people of ancient Israel. Like it was attacked and choked out of the people who even listened to Jesus Himself, the Pharisees and others who actively worked to see the Son of Man tortured, wrongly tried, and crucified – or even Judas, a disciple who betrayed Our Lord. Like it is attacked and choked out of so many today: people who give in on the cultural evils of this day so easily, even though they know what God’s Word clearly says. Like it is attacked in the hearts of the people who are not here right now when they should be and could be here, when they need to be here to receive the forgiveness and comfort Christ wants to give them and give so freely.
Be on guard. The dangers of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh are hostile and real.
But also rejoice that the Divine Sower sows the Word in you, to forgive you and bring forth good fruits with patience towards you. For He allowed Himself to be sewn in mortality into the ground, having been crucified for your hard, rocky, thorny hearts and minds, to bury those forever, and to spring forth from the ground the first-fruits of the great harvest of the resurrection unto eternal life, a life He has earned and that He comes in great humility and patience to sew into you.
The Word of God given to you is a miraculous seed that produces on its own power, does not return empty. God showers His Word down upon you so that you hear it and believe it and become part of His harvest field. The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens you through the seed that is the Word of God. The Word of the Law crushes your self-righteousness and prepares you for the preaching of His Gospel, which promises the forgiveness of sins on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, adoption as sons accomplished in Holy Baptism, and all the blessings of God to be received by faith. Without this Word of God nothing good happens in us.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, open my ears to hear Your life-giving Word, and sow Your Word in my heart, that I would love You more and more each day, guard and protect me from the work of the devil, and keep me in Your grace until that day when You gather me unto Yourself in the final harvest of Your blessed elect. In your Name we pray: Amen.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +