6th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 10) LSB #’s 686, 655, 577
Text – Matthew 13:22
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world & the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, & it proves unfruitful.
In the OT & Gospel readings, we heard of a paradox. God’s Word is all-powerful & yet He allows it to be resisted. These truths seem to contradict one another. If God’s Word is all-powerful, then it cannot be resisted. If God’s Word can be resisted, then it is not all-powerful.
Nevertheless, the readings this morning call us, as followers of Christ, to believe in a paradox: God’s Word is all-powerful & it can be resisted. Hearing Isaiah speak in the OT reading, you learn how God’s Word is all-powerful. Using natural imagery, Isaiah declares that God accomplishes what God wants through His Word:
“For as the rain & snow come down from Heaven & do not return there but water the earth… so shall my Word be… it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose…” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV) God’s Word is all-powerful, & with it God accomplishes what He desires.
However, in the gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the sower & teaches His disciples that God’s all-powerful Word can be resisted. The sower goes out to sow & some of the seeds are snatched away, some are scorched, & some are choked. Only a portion of the seed produces grain.
When you hold these two readings together, you encounter a paradox of faith. God speaks an all-powerful word that can be resisted. It’s important for us to meditate on this paradox because it helps us make sense of the tension we see in the ministry of Jesus, in the gospel of Matthew thousands of years ago & in your life or mine today. Tension! You can feel it in our culture today. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has begun to encounter opposition to His teaching & His miracles. Earlier, Jesus spoke & disciples followed (4:18-25). Now, however, He’s beginning to encounter resistance. Pharisees challenge His miracles & question His teachings (12:2, 10, 24). Earthly rulers oppose the Kingdom (11:2).
Jesus warns His disciples of future opposition (10:16-25) & denounces the cities who reject Him (11:20-24). Yet, amidst demonic forces, earthly powers, & religious leaders who resist His teaching – Jesus continues on His Father’s mission.
So, this paradox Jesus offers His disciples, that God has an all-powerful Word which can be resisted, is not just an intellectual exercise. It is a spiritual reality. They have seen the Word of God cast out demons, still the storms, & heal withered hands, but they’ve also seen the powers of government, religious institutions, & indeed the Devil himself oppose such work.
How are they to respond to the tension between the forces of good & evil? In the parable of the sower, Jesus offers an encouraging word: God’s Word works, even amidst the tension & in the face of opposition. The Word of God can & will bear fruit.
Words such as those are powerful for us today. Christianity no longer has the status it once did in our cultural setting. While some might remember the good God has done through the church, others attack our beliefs as destructive of a common, public life.
Whether it be accusations that Christianity has been used to subjugate women, to silence science, to foster racism, to fuel homophobia, or that it has been used to cultivate self-loathing & a lack of initiative through calls for repentance & humility, news-feeds & Facebook posts resist the words & the works of Jesus.
Especially since it is such a drastic change from just 30 years ago, it is easy to wonder how long we can go on. With the parable of the sower, Jesus acknowledges our reality. God’s Word can & will be resisted. We are not missing the right communication techniques, or the appropriate public relations programs, or the gifted evangelists & missionaries who will turn everything around. No, we proclaim an all-powerful Word that can & will be resisted. We know in our own lives, in great detail, the power of such resistance. And the tension!
But… Jesus reminds us… God does have an all-powerful Word. Rather than retreat into the safe haven of our congregation, rather than hide our faith from public notice, Jesus encourages us to trust in the Spirit’s work through the Word. Even though this Word can be resisted, it remains all-powerful & will accomplish the growth desired by God in His Kingdom.
Jesus is the Word made flesh, who encountered deadly resistance. He died under the attacks of this world upon God’s Word. But God raised Him from the dead, as the beginning of the new creation. Then, Jesus sent forth His people proclaiming His Word to reach all nations, bringing the reign of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the world.
You & I cannot control the resistance of people to God’s Word. And yes, we can see them proving themselves unfruitful right before our very eyes. We know too well our own unfruitfulness & that vision, combined with our pride, magnifies the unfruitfulness we see in others.
We cannot control the resistance of people to God’s Word, but we can trust in God’s power & promise to work through His Word. In this parable, Jesus does not call us to turn our attention inward, to examine our hearts & question, “What kind of soil am I?” No, this parable turns our eyes outward, to the public conflict & tension of the lost sheep of our world.
It asks us to look outside the doors of our churches & see how the Word is being stolen away by Satan, how it is being scorched among others who begin to follow but fall away, & how it is being choked out by those who would rather have the pleasures of plenty than the poverty of the Kingdom. But if we continue to look outside ourselves, while seeing the suffering & resistance, we will soon see a familiar figure walking on the distant horizon. Jesus, the sower, continues to walk amid such great opposition, continues to speak His Word & do His work, trusting that, even though it is being resisted, this is still God’s all-powerful Word.
That Word is bringing about His Kingdom, where & when God desires. If you have ears, then hear that Good News & find rest in it. We cannot control the resistance of people to God’s Word, but we can still trust in God’s power & promise to work through His Word. If that is all we do, then we shall prove fruitful to the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word; curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from Your Son & bring to naught all He has done. Lord Jesus Christ, Your power make known, for You are Lord of lords alone; defend Your holy Church that we may sing Your praise eternally. O Comforter of priceless worth, send peace & unity on earth; support us in our final strife & lead us out of death to life. Amen. LSB 655:1-3.
Credit for this sermon belongs to Rev. David R. Schmitt, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet