Posts Tagged ‘Word’

It’s about the Word not the soil

February 18, 2013

            Over 1000 young people were going to gather. It was going to be an opportunity of a lifetime for the young preacher. The young preacher was best friends with the national youth director but it was still an honor to be asked to preach to a group this large. Plus, there was the notoriety that accompanied preaching at the teen camp. Not everybody got the chance to preach there.

            All the teens would be hungry to hear the Gospel. The fruit from a well executed sermon would be incalculable, the preacher thought. Many of the young men in attendance every year would desire the office of holy ministry. The rest of the youth would feel empowered to live out their faith more boldly. It was like Christmas to the preacher.

            Then the preacher realized that was the same week he was going to New York City.

            Nascar in the Poconos.

            Shea Stadium Baseball.

            Larger than life New York Style Pizza.

            Body Surfing in the Atlantic.

            Staying with his uncle in his uncle’s resort like home; the food, the swimming pool, the full array of HD channels.

            It was a no brainer, the preacher thought and his wife agreed. The couple had gone to New York the year before, and New York would always be there. The youth gathering was the obvious choice. Preach the Word.

            But the preacher and his wife chose New York.

            Field level seats at Shea were bought… it was the final season at Shea after all.

            Second row on the start finish line right at Pocono.

            Arrangements were made at his uncle’s Long Island house, equipped with steak dinners, fine wines, a swimming and a quick drive to Robert Moses Beach.

            Had the preacher taken leave of his senses?

            Was his wife complicit?

            This was a case of dereliction of duty… absent without leave… It was a travesty! A sham! A mockery! A travishamockery! What up and coming preacher would turn down the opportunity to preach to the next generation of congregational leadership? There could be thirty, sixty or even one hundred times the crop there would be at any other preaching engagement.

            What a ridiculous decision.

            No wonder churches are in decline. Pastor’s choosing relaxation over preaching. A complete and utter misuse of the Word.

            I can’t believe this preacher has never heard the parable in today’s Gospel reading. This is a very popular sermons. Many pastors have done it. With any seminary training, the preacher would have heard this at some point. Right? And he would have known that seeds in the best soil produce the greatest yield. What makes it worse, the preacher had heard.

            The preacher was taking a vacation. Indeed. He was taking off the preacher hat for awhile. The preacher wanted to spend time with his uncle, who was a devote atheist. After he thought about it, the preacher knew they would be able to get another eager preacher to preach to the youth, but there was the risk that nobody would come to his uncle.

            The uncle was starting to show that he was beginning to hope in Jesus again. The uncle had many barriers to overcome but the preacher thought the timing was right that he should come spend time with his uncle. For the preacher, it was a no brainer. Yes. Taking off the preacher hat was a no brainer. He put on his Mets hat and spent time with his uncle. Quality time.

            The preacher knew this parable well. The parable is about quality of seed and not quantity of seed and that influenced the preacher’s decision. That is why the preacher opted for the one on one time with his uncle. He wanted to sow seeds in a more personal setting.

            So what about these seeds? Jesus explains to us that in this parable that the seed is the Word. While the bean farmer knows to the pull the rocks out of the field in the early spring, and plant in the good soil, the farmer in the parable is different. The farmer in the parable is no respecter of soil.

            One of the things I always heard when this parable was preached, was a way to get us to think about what kind of people we are. Are our lives full of weeds and rocks? Are we too busy? Do we wilt at the first sign of pressure? I’d always try to figure out which one applied to me. And maybe that’s what the text is trying to do.

            Or a few commentaries said they were saddened because they knew people who were the rocky soil, or the weedy soil, or the busy soil, or the shallow soil.

            It looks pretty bad because too many people want to know which soil they are. Too many people try to apply their neighbor to what type of soil they are. Maybe that’s the point of talking this way.

            But looking only at the soil is missing the thing that those with ears are supposed to hear. If all we focus on is what our soil is or what our neighbor’s soil is, then we miss it.

            Jesus says the farmer sows the Word. The Word is the seed. The farmer isn’t making a bad decision, but he is being generous with the Word that was entrusted to him. The farmer isn’t judging the soil because he knows that the Word is God’s gracious act and it isn’t up to the farmer to determine where God’s gracious act is applied.

            The farmer sows the Word. And that Word is Jesus Christ. Whether we think we are the rocky soil, weedy soil, busy soil, or the shallow soil Christ came to the soil called earth.

            The Word came for all; the rocky soil, the weedy soil, the shallow soil, the thorny soil and the good soil. Christ, the Word, does not make a distinction.

            You don’t have to live in the country near real literal soil. You don’t have to have a big yard. You don’t even have to have a community garden down the street. You don’t even have to have a square of grass to call a yard or a side walk to your name.

            Yes, Christ came for all. Christ came for the thousand youth that gathered for a week. But he also came for the atheist uncles. Christ came to redeem the world.

            The seed is the Word. The Word is Christ. Christ has come for you. Christ took the thorny crown. Christ was trampled on. Christ endured persecution. Christ did this all for you!

            But the work of Christ didn’t stop 2,000 years ago. Why, the Word attached to water in baptism is Jesus Christ. Christ meets us at the waters if our baptism and is work in us because of that baptism, to show that we are his. In baptism, Christ comes for the young people gathered. Christ comes for the atheist uncle. In baptism, Christ comes for you.

            In Lutheran church services, the Word was spoken to you in absolution. God forgives all your sins merely on the basis and merit of the Word, Jesus Christ. Christ comes to us in the words, “You are forgiven.”

            Of course, the scripture readings, the Word comes to us, into our ears. The Word of ancient times is brought to us and is active in our lives now.

            This is God’s word for you, today. I know that’s hard to believe. I seem as careless as the up and coming preacher seemed at the beginning or as wasteful as the farmer. This could never be for me. Or this would never work on so and so. And then you realize that this is for you and that this is for so and so. The Word is to be sown in all types of soils.

            Last in order of service, but not least, the Word comes to us through the body and blood of Christ in communion.

            It is through this, and all the methods that Christ has come to us and strengthen and nourishes us, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.

            Like the preacher, I charge you to take off your preacher cap. Now, it’s easy to get into the mentality that it’s the preacher’s responsibility to sow the seed. But as you see, the seed is sown on a personal, one on one level. The Word comes over a steak or a glass of wine or another Mets loss. Sharing the Word… Sharing Christ all while sharing life…

            Jesus Christ came into the world, for all and for one. Jesus came for you. I hope that we begin to value the Word of God coming to us not because we are part of something large but because of the quality of that Word, who is Jesus Christ