Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

6th Sunday Pentecost

6th Pentecost 6.17 “Standing Under or Standing Over?” Matt. 13:1-8; 18-23

Our Old Testament reading is perhaps the most important passage in all the Hebrew Scriptures for the modern church and the most neglected. A large statement, but I think demonstrable. God tells us very simply how it is that people find life and joy and a place in His Kingdom. And it’s not the way most of modern Christendom (to say nothing of the anti-Christians) think it goes…

The Word of God works exactly like the rain and snow. The rain and snow come down without any effort, purpose, or control of human beings. This annoys modern people greatly as the old saw “everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it” shows. And also our obsession with the notion that we, by our actions, can somehow change the global weather patterns one way or the other—warming it up by thoughtless pollution or cooling things down by careful conservation. Well

God says the rain and the snow come from Him. He sends them by His gracious ordaining. And they don’t return to Him without watering the earth and making if bring forth and bud, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater. In the exact same way the Word goes forth from God’s mouth and does not return to Him void, but accomplishes exactly what He pleases, prospers in the thing for which He sends it.

And what is that thing? (since we are people who start always with “What”?). Well, it is life and salvation and endless joy in Christ our Lord. “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace. The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree. And it shall be to the Lord for a Name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds like a Kingdom of endless life, joy, delight! And how does this life and salvation in God’s Kingdom come about, hmm? Is there anything we have to do to make it happen? Do we have to follow lots of tedious rules on behavior and morality? Do we have to learn lots of complex propositions about God? Do we have to go out and save our neighbors by curbing their behavior and making them learn all these complex propositions about God? Uh, no. No, we don’t. The Word falls down from heaven, free and gracious, like summer rain cooling the scorching earth, like snow blanketing the mountains and running down in cold, clear streams. It falls on us like this, all heedless and unawares as we are, and does what God says: makes us new creations, makes us grow up in every way into the Image of the Word made Flesh, Christ our Lord.

It’s a Gift. It’s totally free. It’s all God’s doing and none of ours. We are, as Dr. Luther so well said in his last words, “Beggars after all”. We are slackers and scroungers and beatniks and bums, but that’s OK. The Word will make us sons and daughters of the King, princes and princesses of noble bearing and regal manners, with courage and strength and liveliness and bravery and no end to the places we will go, the things we will see, the joys that will be ours in Christ Jesus as we effortlessly reflect all His power and might and goodness and grace.

As our Lutheran fathers put it 500 years ago: we poor sinners are justified by God’s free grace alone, for Christ’s sake, when we believe this Word He brings to us by the power of His Spirit. This is all Christ’s doing, 100% of it. Like the rain and the snow are all God’s doing and beyond our ability to create or direct. We are passive receivers of the goodness, mercy, and grace of God—but that Word is not passive. It is a living, busy, active thing, constantly doing what is Good in us, making us who are nothing something, something spectacular—the spitting Image of the Son of God Himself. But the power and the might that gives such growth, that turns a scorched desert into a Garden, a Paradise of God’s, is all God’s and not our doing…

Hermann Sasse observed 50 years ago that the Scriptures say the AntiChrist is the one who takes his seat in the church of God and puts himself in Christ’s position. And not just the pope, but modern Christendom largely, and Missouri Synod clergy especially do this today! For example, when we say it is our job to seek and save the lost, to go find them and make them Christians—something nearly every District President in our Synod today says—we are putting ourselves in Christ’s position(!). Because, Jesus says He, the Son of Man, came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10). Not we, but HEJesus Christ(!) does this. He is the Savior and we’re the saved. He’s the Helper and we are the helpees. He’s the King and we are beggars after all, but by His Word and Spirit, according to the Father’s sending, He will make us kings and queens with Him, to share all the joy of My Kingdom with us freely…

Now, Jesus does this. Not you and not me. Not even the Apostles have the power in this. As Paul says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase! So then, he who plants and he who waters is nothing…” And what part of nothing don’t you get?

Well, the core concept obviously—no tern is left unstoned. Jesus states this plainly in our parable today, but our lectionary cuts out the middle verses in which no one gets what Jesus says and He has to explain it to the disciples because the hearts of this people are dull and heavy and their ears are closed…

Jesus is the Sower and the seed is the Word (which is both the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus Himself, the Word made flesh). It is Jesus who sows Himself, plants Himself everywhere. But, some places, the Word lands on a roadway and the birds devour it—that happens when no one understands the Word and the devil snatches it up. And here’s the thing: you have to take this word “understand” literally. It’s not our effort to comprehend the Word. It means literally what it says: if you stand under (where most stand over!) the Word that falls on you, like you stand under the shower in the morning, IT will wash over you by Christ’s own power and make you clean and fresh. Just stand under the Word when He falls from heaven, like summer rain on a hot day, and without any effort or activity of your own, the Word will sprout and grow. Faith is simply the non-rejection of the Word: it’s not running away, just letting Art flow over you…

Too many people think the pathway, the shallow soil, the thorny ground, the good soil are different groups—atheists, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Lutherans. Nah. The four different kinds of ground would be four different states or postures towards the word; and we exemplify all of those states ourselves—sometimes all four seasons in one day! I can flinch and flee from the word in the morning; be, deep down, really shallow at lunch; let the cares of riches choke it out of me at dinner; and only at evening, saying the prayers I learned as a child, let the Word have His Way with me, taking away my sin and making something of me…

Now the Word works all on His own, for Christ’s sake—and will make, even of you and me, new creations in Christ Jesus; and Peace surpassing understanding guards our hearts and minds in Him. Amen.

Services

Advent Vespers –

Wednesday, 15 December 7:00 p.m.

17  December 2017

3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Advent Vespers – Wednesdays – 7:00 p.m.

December 6, 13, 20

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – DS w/Comm

7:00 p.m  24 December 2017

Christmas Day Service – DS w/Communion

11:00 a.m.  25 Christmas 2017

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.