July 30, 2017 [Pentecost 8]  Matthew 13:1-9,18-23  J.D.Roekle

 

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

 

Are You Listening?

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          In the          1970s and early 1980s, one of the largest brokerage firms in the nation was a group by the name of E.F. Hutton.  In fact, many of you may remember their clever slogan: When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.  One commercial for the brokerage firm pictured a classroom scene in which the teacher asked a student to recite her ABCs.  The student began: A, B, C, D, E, F… and then the student paused and repeated the last two letters: E, F, E.F. Hutton.  As soon as she said that, the teacher and all her fellow students stood up and crowded in on her as if she were about to spout off some great financial advice.  Then came the voiceover with the punchline: When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen

          We hear many things each day, but what are those things that cause us to stand up and listen?  You may hear your mom tell you to clean your room and then you ‘forget’ to do it.  You’re listening to her when she asks if you want to go to Dairy Queen and you’re in the car before she finishes her sentence.  You may hear that someone has some kind of cancer, but you don’t really recall what it is.  You’re listening when you are the one told by the doctor that you have just been diagnosed with leukemia and suddenly you’re scouring the internet for information. 

          In our text for today, Jesus encourages us: “He who has ears, let him hear.”  We don’t have to wonder what Jesus meant by that, because his next word makes it clear.  He says: “Listen.”  Jesus wanted his disciples and he wants us to be engaged in what he has to say.  Are you listening

 

          God wants everyone to be in his kingdom.  God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  He wants you to know that truth and for you to grow stronger in the conviction that you are God’s own.  In fact, you are God’s own from the moment he planted his Gospel in your heart in Holy Baptism.  He continues to reach out to you with the Good News that Jesus lived and died for you as you read or hear Scripture.  He even gives you Jesus’ very body and blood to seal this truth. 

          But are you always listening?  Jesus made it very clear in this parable of the sower and the seed that not everyone listens.  For various reasons, some immediately reject him, and others reject him after a time. 

But there are some, who continue on in their faith, grow and even produce fruit.  Jesus pictures this in the parable as seed landing in good soil.  Jesus says: “the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” 

Does that describe you?  And if so, why?  Is it because your heart is just more fertile than so many hearts that reject Jesus?  Is it because you are someone predisposed to accepting Jesus at his Word? 

Before we get to thinking too highly of ourselves, let’s remember where we came from, and what we once were.  We were once like the seed the sower threw along the path, where the birds came and ate it up since it had no fertile soil to germinate in.  Jesus describes that ground this way: “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”  Our hearts are like that hard ground.  We were not at all receptive to hearing the message of the Gospel.  We were at the mercy of the devil who was our chief ally. 

It is now only by the grace of God, that our hearts believe the Gospel.  It was God himself who planted the seed, tilled our hearts, and caused that seed to grow into faith.  We are nothing without God and his work on our hearts. 

But it isn’t as if all is now fixed.  We still have a listening problem at times. 

We can have a tendency to hear God, but not really listen to him.  And this shows up in different ways. 

          It shows up as we begin to doubt God when troubles come our way.  Jesus pictures this with the seed that lands on rocky soil.  Because the soil isn’t deep, roots can’t grow, and the seed quickly springs up and dies out.  Jesus explains: “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” 

          Are there times you feel really good about being a Christian?  You’re on top of the world.  You’ve sung “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” and you’re ready to conquer the world.  You’re happy to come to church and worship.  But then it happens.  Sometimes it may be subtle but other times it hits you like a ton of bricks.  Something happens that saps all the joy of your life.  And sometimes it doesn’t take much.  Somebody mocks you because of your faith.  You get snubbed because you go to church.  You don’t get the job because you tell them you need to have Sundays or Mondays off so you can go to church.  You cry out to God, what’s going on!  I didn’t sign up for this!

          But are you listening?  You did, in fact, sign up for this.  God said it would be this way.  He never promised that being a Christian would be easy.  In fact, he tells us: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 

          There’s another reason we sometimes don’t listen to Jesus.  We get distracted.  Jesus pictures this with the seed that falls on the thorny ground.  The seed germinates and begins to grow but then gets choked out by the thorns.  Jesus interprets this for us: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” 

          Am I going to have enough money for retirement?  How am I going to pay for college?  How am I even going to make ends meet?  Such are the worries that we have.  Worries that sap our joy.  But Jesus never promised us we’d be rich.  He didn’t say we couldn’t be rich either.  The point is, when it comes to our faith, the way we look at material things should need not affect our faith. 

          And yet they do.  We are often preoccupied with the day to day concerns of our daily lives.  And yet what does Jesus say?  Listen to him!  He reminds us of the birds of the air who don’t store food in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  He reminds us of the lilies of the field that grow even though they don’t labor or spin.  If God clothes these plants, why should we doubt that he’ll clothe us?  In all of this, Jesus reminds us: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

 

          No one is listening to E.F. Hutton anymore.  Why?  Scandal hit the business and because of it by 1990, they were no longer using the name.  That won’t happen with God.  When He talks, you need to listen! 

          And why?  Because when God talks he isn’t merely giving advice on stocks and investing in things that won’t last.  He’s talking to you about your eternal future.  Your future that is secure because of him and because of his Gospel.  And in fact it is his Good News about Jesus that he continues to use to strengthen your current standing with him.  He uses it to make you grow in your trust in Jesus.  He uses this Good News in order for you to produce fruit, so that his kingdom continues to grow and expand, both in your heart and in the hearts of others.  Are you listening?  Are you listening to Jesus?  You have every reason to do so! Amen.