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The Parable of the Soils

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Pastor James F. Wright

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Jul 14, 2002
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

A sower went out to sow.

God would plant his word deep within us so that our faith would grow up into a tall, lush plant full of scrumptious fruit.  His word is like seed that can sprout anywhere.  It has great power to grow and flourish.  Isaiah 55.  It gives us hope in otherwise hopeless situations.  It puts life back into our dead bodies.  It will raise us to up eternal life.

The seed falls from the sower's hand on the ground. Some soils are hard, some shallow, some hearts love too many things and can hold on to nothing.  Some soils are just right and the plant grows green and tall.

Some seed fell on the hard path.  This reminds me of talks with my friend who remarks how Christians make good role models for children and have good moral character, but believe in a myth.  I feel sad because she is under the spell of those who think the gospel originated out of the imagination of ancient times.  No matter how I explain it, she will not believe that Jesus is really the God who loves them.  Why will they not believe?  The fault is not in the seed.  In the Gospel of JC has ability to help any soul, in any condition, any situation.

God cannot be blamed for a person's damnation.  The love of God is for all the world.  The fault lies in our own hearts, which are hard like a well-traveled footpath.

Those of you who like to garden might relate to the second kind of soil. In the spring we see plants in the store that look so beautiful.  We imagine them growing in our own garden.  We take them home and plant them in the yard.  They do well through May and June, but when we get to this part of the year, they can't take the heat of the sun.  They shrivel up and die, and we say to ourselves, "I'll never plant that again."

This is like the seed that fell on the rocky soil. At first it grew well.  It looked like these plants were doing well and would bear a good harvest.  When the sun came up they were scorched and died.  How well we know about this.

The same is true with the faith of some.  They come to Christ in times of great excitement and devotion, but when they get back to their ordinary life their faith in Christ slips easily out of their hand.  They cannot stand up to the raised eye of a friend.  When their faith is put to the test, they exchange it for status with sinners.

That is why we must take care to speak straight about God's word.  We must not dress it up and make it look appealing to those who would hear it.  We must not imply that following Jesus is easy, or that a Christian can apply only parts of the Word to themselves.  It looks like this is happening everywhere today.  It attracts many, but it has no power to keep them alive.  For when trouble comes, they abandon Jesus.

The Word of God has its own power.  It doesn't need us to dress it up to make it more appealing to those who have no understanding for it.  It has the power to convert the soul from unbelief to faith.  It knows no barriers but rejection.

We should be open to where the roots would grow in us.  This comes from being well taught in the Word of God.  Just as we feed our bodies and take care of them, the soul must always be fed the good food of the Gospel of God.  Then God's seed can grow deep within us and nothing can cause it to wither.  How blessed we are to have God's word before us, in our churches and homes.  What power is there in our minds and hearts when we are filled with the promises of God!

Some seed fell among the thorns.  In the garden a little girl asks her father, "Daddy, why did God make weeds?" The gardener is constantly weeding.  Weeds steal water, sunlight, and nutrients.  Jesus mentions here the worst kind of weeds.  They are vines that wrap themselves around the young plant and choke it to death.  What do the weeds represent?  Jesus says they are the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and Mark adds "the desire for other things."

Cares of this world are the things we are more concerned about than Jesus.  Cares of this world are people, things, and issues that we love too much.  These all compete with the Word of God planted within us.  What is worse, if they are allowed to grow, they wrap their thorny vines around us and choke the breath of faith until we die.  These weeds produce feelings within us, anger, greed, apathy to God.  Feelings lead us to compromise the Word of hope.  So daily the weeds must be pulled up from inside us.  At first this comes painfully, but as we grow we see how much tribulation we can endure for the kingdom of God.  Everything will eventually be taken away, except our faith.  We brought nothing with us into the world.  We can expect to take nothing out of it, except our trust in God.  This is enough.  This is what we need most.

Materialism is easy to identify today.  This is the sadness we feel because we never have enough possessions.  Take computers for instance.  Whey you are shopping for a computer, you always want the best, fastest, most powerful you can afford.  We are so happy with it when we get home with it.  But one or two years later it seems like the slowest thing.  We want a better one.  The same happens with cars, houses, and all other possessions.

This happens with so many things that we put great value on.  We need things to survive in this world, but we forget that God give these things only to help us, not for us to worship.  Cars provide transportation.  Houses provide shelter.  Money buys food and clothing.  They don't have in themselves the power to make us content.  This is what the Bible calls the deceitfulness of riches, when we think that things can make us truly happy.  It's a great delusion.

Listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy about riches: "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness" (1 Timothy 6:9-11).

These things have become great thorny vines that obliterate the faith of many and leave them unhappy and alienated from God.  This is tragic.  For when we receive a material blessing in life, that is when we should thank the Lord for his undeserved mercy toward us.  And when something is taken away from us, we should ask the Lord above to help us through and trust that He will.

Some of the seed fell on the good soil where it grew and flourished.  This is the heart of a person who is willing to let God be God and put his trust in the goodness of the Heavenly Father.  What grace and blessing will be given to this kind of a heart.  For God will see that the seed of His Word will be watered and nourished, so that the plant will grow tall and strong.  Its blossoms will be a sign of God's grace, and its fruit will be there for all to share.

Take a good look at yourself and you will see that at times your heart has been like all of these types of soils.  We have been hard towards God and not wanted His Word to grow in us.  We've been the shallow soil, expecting only blessings from God and becoming disappointed when hardship comes.  We've allowed the weeds of worldly cares to grow among us.  And yet God continually scatters his seed over us.  He plants His Word in our hearts and he gives it the power to grow and flourish.  He provides life to the seed of his Word so that grows into a believing heart.  Whether we will allow it to grow remains to be seen.

God has given us all the opportunity to produce a beautiful plant of faith.  He planted the Word within us, He watered it with our Baptism into Christ, His providence continually provides us with the good weather and climate it needs.  He defends it from all kinds of pests.

Will this plant continue to grow in us? Will we daily repent of our sin and receive the forgiveness Christ earned on the cross for us?  Will we forget that we have been joined with Christ by his will and promise?  Will we allow the hardships that come to harden our hearts toward our gracious God?  Will we keep money and possessions in their proper place and remove them from the altar of our heart?  Will we guard against relationships that divide our hearts against the Lord?  Will faith die out, or will it flourish and grow?

The answer to these questions is worked out daily in our lives.  God is responsible for achieving our salvation and growing faith within us.  We are to keep ourselves open to the seed of the Word and free from the weeds that grow choke it.

We live now with an eye to the future, when the harvest comes and the fruits and vegetables are picked and brought into the kingdom of heaven.  Here we are blessed to see our purpose.  All we have endured will be rewarded, and all we have suffered will be revenged.

Let the word of God grow in you richly and produce a harvest of a hundred times what was planted.  This is the power of God's Word in your life.

Copyright 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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