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In Matthew 11 the Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist had sent his disciples who did not really get it that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  Two cities of which Jesus did many great deeds were unrepentant.  In the next chapter, the Pharisees accused Jesus as a man healing people by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” and the Pharisees “…went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him.” Note:  not just “kill” but “destroy”.   The times were hard and so was the soil. And here in chapter 13 is our Lord’s Sermon of Parables and most of  them are about seeds and plants growing.  The parable of the Sower is the Lord answers the question:  Why is it that so many in the crowd are not responding in faith and discipleship? The Parable of the Sower answers that question then and now.  

Verses 1-4:  That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.

Verses 18-19:When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path

 “the word of the kingdom” This is what the reign of the Lord is like:  a seed.  “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  1 Corinthians 15:  43  A seed in the ground growing. Sown in weakness.  Sown in death.  Against amazing odds. Even malicious enemies. No moral law makes a seed grow. This is specific Word of God of His reign through Jesus Christ.  I chose the icon above because of a significant detail: notice the depiction of the Lord’s hand.  Yes, red with the mark of the nail and it is almost as if the seed is coming from his blood, and so His forgiveness is given through the means of preaching and teaching, the means of grace, that is, the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, in repentance and absolution. We preach Christ and Him crucified.  The Lord calls His Church to preach the Lord’s reign through he death and resurrection of HIs Son for sinners. 

Along the beaten path, the road very traveled, that every Tom, Dick and Harry walks, the easy path that leads to destruction,  the devil comes along and snatches the seed of the Word of God’s reign. Everyone is doing it whatever the current “it” is. “Everyone’s doing it”.   For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  And along the beaten path  of the world, many are beaten by it. His Word laying on the top is prey to the evil one.

A sower went out to sow:

The sower sows; his reckless love 
Scatters abroad the goodly seed, 
Intent alone that men may have 
The wholesome loaves that all men need. 

“…this sower, unlike other sowers, casts seed without apparent regard for where it lands. ” This picture illustrates the gracious character of Jesus, who invites to himself all who labor (11:28) and who has come to call even sinners to repentance (9:13). This indiscriminate broadcast—of the seed and of the Gospel—is not very “efficient” and goes against the human tendency to conserve one’s resources and efforts when one is not confident about receiving personal benefits. Surely this is not the most “productive” way to operate. But that’s how it is with the reign of God in Christ; grace trumps efficiency.” (Concordia Commentary on St. Matthew by Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs)

This is a good line:  “grace trumps efficiency”.  The Sower casts the Word of the Kingdom all over.  The word “seminary” has as the Latin  root, “seed” as the school to teach men to preach and teach the Word, but all Christians will be given opportunities to broadcast the Word of the Gospel.  “Broadcast” is the name given to this type of sowing.  We call TV shows, “broadcasts”:  it’s all over.  Jesus was not stingy with the Word of the Kingdom, of the promises fulfilled in Him who is the Word made flesh. The Lord knew about broadcasting a long time before the 20th century.  

After all, we heard His Word last week, COME TO ME ALL WHO BURDEN AND HEAVY LADEN AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST: ALL,  the doubting, the frightened, those carrying a load of woe, those who know their sin and know they can not do anything about it. They are the soil of the seed:  the Word of the Kingdom.

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Ruth 1  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Note: These verses used to be one read at many a wedding years ago because it is about faithfulness in all the path of life in faith in the Lord, “…till death do us part”. As Ruth and Orpah, marriage is about loyalty one to the other.  Faithfulness is key in a marriage and maybe the dearth of hearing this passage from Ruth in the wedding rite is an indication that the aim of faithfulness is not central as it once was.  If so, this is sad.)

Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Mt 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi’s but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7–13; 4:9–12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13–17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. Ruth’s kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi, and her faith in Naomi’s God, have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God’s praise for his merciful choice of one so unexpected.

 This short book…”… of David’s great-grandmother,” tells the charming story of Ruth the Moabitess, who lived in the days when the Judges ruled in Israel…

“One of the sweetest stories in the Bible, showing that even in the blackest period God has men and women who love and serve Him:

  • In Boaz we have the model rich man of his age; every act and word shows his deep faith in God.
  • In Ruth we have an example of modesty and patience, coupled with a remarkable belief in the true God.
  • In Naomi we have a specimen of a good woman, whose religion shows itself in fidelity to all her duties.”

“One chief purpose of the book seems to be the tracing of the genealogy of David to the Moabitess Ruth, whose name it bears.”… “This information gains in significance if we remember that the genealogy of David is at the same time that of Jesus Christ. The story therefore goes to show how Ruth the Moabitess, by birth an alien to Israel, was chosen to become an ancestress of the Savior. Her reception into the communion of Israel also testified to the fact that even in the days before Christ Gentiles might be admitted to the kingdom of God if only they received the promises of the covenant in true faith.

 As the genealogy here recorded ends with David’s name, it is improbable that the book should have been written before David had become a person of influence and renown among the people of the covenant. We find an additional reason for this assumption in chap. 4, 7, where the author explains a peculiar custom, which had fallen into disuse in his days. – The author remains unknown to us; but it has been suggested that David himself might well have penned this account of a significant episode in his family history,” and the record concerning Christ’s ancestors was thus completed. From Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s 4 Volume Commentary on the Bible

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“…what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men’s minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: “Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxism. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.” That is exactly like saying to a farmer: “Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.” Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself!

(From Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s Proper Distinction between Law and Promise, Third Evening Lecture)

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Galatians 1: 3:  Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

From Dr. Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians:  

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God (1).

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair (2). We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. 

(1)  I was visiting a hospice patient.  When it came for Scripture time, I spoke about the text regarding God’s grace in Jesus Christ for sinners. She started weeping.  I asked her why she was crying.  She said, “It’s so good to hear that”.  I said Martin Luther agreed:  when it comes to justification by grace through faith, we need to hear it everyday because we forget it everyday.  She nodded in the affirmative.

“The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.”-Luther

A person can not “persuade oneself” about so great a salvation by grace alone by one’s self alone,  but we need to hear it from someone else:  encouraging, preaching, teaching the Lord Jesus’ atonement. This comes from the preacher, a teacher or a dear friend in Christ. Faith comes from the outside in, through the ear to the heart, not the inside out where there is corruption in the flesh, in the heart.  The world’s religions only go from the inside out, and this includes too many religions that bear the name “Christian”. So we need the Divine Service to hear our forgiveness in the Lord in  so many ways:  Confession and Absolution, the Scriptures and the Sermon, the confessional hymns, the sharing of the Peace of Christ and fully:  His Body and Blood.  Truly, the Divine Service is Gottesdient:  God’s Service to us. We are fed and so we are led.

(2)  “Holy orders” in the 16th century were in superabundance:  monasteries and convents.  The works righteous theology was if you really wanted to be saved then become a monk or a nun.  At one time, Luther thought this as well until the revelation of the Gospel, the Lord’s “grace and peace” alone through the death and resurrection and Jesus Christ awoken faith in Luther.  We do not see many monks and nuns in our day, but we do see their popular equivalents on TV,  who promote all sorts of “religious exercises” in order to insure “to gain peace of conscience”, e.g.  the exercises of Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Joel Osteen, etc. etc.  In fact, from the ’60s to the second decade of the 21st century we have been drowning in religious movements, from EST to your Best Life Now.  But like Paul Simon sang, “The nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away”.  And all these purveyors of peace have a price for their ‘salvation’:  $$$$.  They say, “love, love” but their is no love. The Lord paid the price once and for all, not with silver or gold but the precious blood of His Son. He so loved that our salvation is done.

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“…faith is conceived and strengthened through Absolution, through the hearing of the Gospel, through the use of the Sacraments, so that it may not give in to the terrors of sin and death while it struggles. This method of repentance is plain and clear. It increases the worth of the Power of the Keys and of the Sacraments. It illumines Christ’s benefit and teaches us to make use of Christ as Mediator and the Atoning Sacrifice…Christ says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Here there are two parts. The “labor” and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and death. To “come to” Christ is to believe that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. When we believe, our hearts are brought to life by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Word. Here, therefore, are these two chief parts: contrition and faith.” (The Book of Concord:  Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII, Repentance)

“Some Christians have a weak faith and are shy, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the great number of their sins. They think that in their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and Christ’s benefits. They feel their weakness of faith and lament it, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience. These  are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament has been especially instituted and appointed. For Christ says:

  • Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

  • Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Matthew 9:12)

  • [God’s] power is made mighty in the weak. [2 Corinthians 12:9 Luther]

  • As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him… for God has welcomed him. [Romans 14:1-3]

  • Whoever believes in [the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith,] may have eternal life. [John 3:15]

Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ’s merit, which the distressed father of little faith [Mark 9:24] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”  (The Book of Concord:  Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VII, The Holy Supper)

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Come to me, all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

From The Large Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther, on the 6th Chief Part, The Sacrament of the Altar:

                       In this sacrament (the Lord Christ) offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us in other places, as when he says in Matt. 11:28,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.”

Surely it is a sin and a shame  that, when he tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good, we act so distantly toward it, neglecting it so long that we grow quite cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it. We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful 68 thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?

            Of course, it is true that those who despise the sacrament and lead unchristian lives receive it to their harm and damnation. To such people nothing can be good or wholesome, just as when a sick person willfully eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician. But those who feel their weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils.

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Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1-5; 11:1-16), and his public ministry (61:1-3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.

We have been quite accustomed to the expression, describing an event or a thing as really bad by saying, “It was awful”.  Then in the last few years the use of “awe” has been positive, as in, “The play was awesome”, that is, just the best!  When the Lord called Isaiah in the Temple,  recorded in chapter 6, “awful” and “awesome” were both apt responses:  The holiness of the LORD of hosts is awful, that is, He filled Isaiah with awe and the event was truly awesome.  The misuse of the “awful”, as a word picture of something bad was Isaiah’s reaction, “I am a man of unclean lips”!  Isaiah knew he was awful in the presence of the awful God.  Isaiah knew his heart as did his brother prophet, Jeremiah:  “The heart is deceitful above all things,  and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17: 9).  The Lord alone shows us, by His Law, our heart condition and He alone the cardiac care He accomplished.  Yet, we are shameless in thinking we do know our own hearts as the foolish advice is too oft given and received: “Follow your heart”/”Follow your passion”/”The heart wants what the heart wants. .  The Lord understands the human heart, we obviously don’t and like to think we do so we can do what we want and the passions

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 have run amok: rage, anger, lust, greed, envy.  What we see too often on our screens is not ‘awesome’.   Truly, the fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom. The wisdom to know who we are, that is true humility and Who the Lord is in calling Isaiah and you in His Son, Jesus Christ to teach us His Way.  Then the very Son of God, prophesied by Isaiah, and His sacrificial atonement
is surely aweful and we like Isaiah, are cleansed by His grace for sinners.

We pray…Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Isaiah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

 

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