SERMON TEXT BELOW
Pentecost 3, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps
June 13, 2021
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Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
Today is one of those days that a sermon seems almost counter-productive. Why? Well...the words of Jesus in Gospel lesson are quite simple and easy to understand. This is basic our Sunday School kind of stuff. Most everyone knows the parables of sowing seed and tiny mustard seeds growing into the grandest and largest plants in all the garden, and knows what they mean. And even if you are unfamiliar with these parables, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the meaning is for us to sow the seed of God's Word! It's all so simple. A sermon almost seems unnecessary. All too often we come at these parables from a very logical, practical perspective. Basically, we look only as far as the "how to" being taught and we never get to the "why."
WHY did Jesus teach these parables? You see, the real lesson to be learned here is found in the reason for Christ's teaching; not in the method that is taught.
Why did Jesus teach this lesson to His disciples? Many people were following Jesus, but many more doubted. Many more were out to silence Him, mock Him, discredit Him, and even harm Him. Remember last week's Gospel preceding these parables telling of Jesus' own mother and brothers and sisters His own family-trying to lay hands on Him and silence Him and take Him home, as if He was out of His mind and mentally ill and bringing great shame upon the family with His behavior. We heard Jesus' own family trying to shut Him up and discredit Him, and then Jesus immediately begins to teach His disciples these lessons about the reign and rule of God and how God works.
It makes perfect sense. The disciples of Jesus had witnessed a lot of things happening with Jesus' ministry. There were times that Jesus seemed like he was more concerned about right practice than He was with establishing relationships and friendships and building up numbers. There were occasions when people turned and walked away from Jesus because they didn't like what He was teaching; they didn't like what they heard (remember the rich young ruler). Jesus wasn't matching up with what people wanted, expected, and demanded, so they walked away.
There was also the fact that following Jesus could prove hazardous to your health. John the Baptist certainly found this out the hard way, as would all the apostles.
And don't think it went unnoticed that Jesus was public enemy #1 with the religious elite. If you got on the wrong side of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, you could expect a high degree of misery in your future.
In the book of Ecclesiastes it says "There is nothing new under the sun." People have always tried to avoid conflict and be liked by everyone. That's just human nature. No one likes to be disliked, and yet faithfully following Jesus will make you disliked by a lot of people.
There is also the fact that following Jesus wasn't exactly a fast-track to all the finer things in life. In fact, following Jesus often put one lower than the animals in terms of finer things and luxuries. "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." (Luke 9:59)
"Take nothing for your journey; no staff, no moneybag, no bread, no money, and do not have two tunics." "If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.(Mark 6:8) To be sure, following Jesus wasn't exactly the world's perfect picture of success, which is why many of His own disciples would doubt and despair and turn and walk away. Now, I know at this point that it's rather easy for us to look down upon those "followers" who turned away from Christ when things didn't go the way they planned. After all, we would never do that, would we? And yet...we do. We do it all the time.
Just think about how often we try to "help" Jesus out when things aren't working out the way we anticipated or hoped for in our church.
Every generation of Christians since Christ walked this earth has worried that the Church will die out because the younger generations aren't showing up and packing the pews. This is when all kinds of interesting stuff gets introduced in the name of "mission" or "church growth." It's happened for centuries. Faithful Word and Sacrament ministry gets put on the back-burner (or abandoned altogether) in favor of the newest gimmicks and marketing ploys and business models, all geared at winning market-share and specific demographics and more money and more people.
We turn the Lord's Divine Service into something that we hope will appeal to the masses, essentially changing God to suit the consumer, rather than letting God change the consumer to suit Him.
People of God: This is the reason why Jesus taught these parables. This is the reason why He still teaches these same parables to us this very day. In a very real way Jesus is teaching us to stay the course--His course. He has given us His means of grace as the seed that grows His kingdom. "Go and make disciples of all nations...." How? By sowing His seed; that is, by baptizing and teaching ALL that He has commanded and taught. His Word and His Sacraments will give life to your family, friends, and neighbors.
New life sprouts forth from these seeds of divine grace, and from these seeds of His divine grace. How? Like the farmer who scatters seeds, he knows not how they sprout and grow. He just knows that what he sows sprouts and grows.
And the littlest, most unassuming seeds that our Lord plants in us (and gives to us to sow) sprout and spring forth life in the grandest fashion and scale, just like the little mustard seed that grows to become the largest of all the garden plants.
Look no further than right here to your Lord's feast table. Look to these very unassuming and scant elements of bread and wine.
Look no further than the baptismal font and the few drops of ordinary water that wet your head so long ago.
Look no further than the words of absolution you heard and received at the beginning of this Divine Service.
In all these mere things-these little unassuming mustard seeds-Almighty God is at work, working miraculous, mighty, life giving, life-saving deeds.
These simple mustard seeds, freely sown with no strings attached, no requirements, no conditions; they spring forth and produce the fruits of everlasting life.
Nothing else can do that! There is nothing else that the world can offer that can produce these fruits and this rich harvest of life, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and peace. We can try and sow other seeds. People have been doing it for centuries.
We can try and grow God-pleasing wheat all we want, but if we're not sowing His seed, all we're going to find is a crop of weeds sprouting up.
We can try to doctor up the seeds that God gives us, as if we're going to improve upon the Master Gardener's design. We can try -- we will fail and this is the reason our Lord teaches this lesson. Oh yes
indeed-we are called and taught to freely sow the Gospel seeds God gives us. We can never deny the core teaching of these parables. But as I said, there is a very good and Godly reason our Lord teaches us these lessons.
Rest assured, He does know all that we're experiencing in this fallen and sinful world. He does know how His Church is suffering and struggling in the midst of a culture and a people who despise Him, and His means of grace and His holy bride-the Church.
He does know all the things that are eating at you and causing you to doubt, despair, and worry. He also knows how we tend to respond and behave when life gets tough and things start looking bleak; how we tend to panic and flail about like a drowning man; how we, like our first parents, willingly reach out and sample the goods that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh hold out to us; how we tend to look elsewhere for the things we think we need to calm our worries and satisfy our desires. He knows...and He cares. He loves you and cares for you so much that He still cries out to you and teaches you that He's got it all covered and under control.
This may sound strange, but these parables of Jesus are just a different way for our Lord to cry out to us in the midst of the storms of life, "Fear not! Fear not, for it is I, and I am with you always! Trust in Me above all things. I've got it all handled."
I will say it again because it bears repeating, and the ears of faith never tire of hearing the sweet fruit of the Gospel: Look right here at what your Lord and Savior is sowing, planting, and growing in your midst. Look at these amazing, yet unassuming mustard seed means of grace...and rejoice!
Here is Christ! Here is the Master Gardener at work in your life, bestowing upon you His super-abundant harvest of peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Look to and cling to the eternal and unconditional grace given to you in Holy Baptism.
Look to and cling to the mighty life-giving, life-saving Gospel promise in, with, and under the ordinary and unassuming mustard seeds of word, water, bread and wine.
In the words of Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other."
And may the same be said of you. May you ever and always trust in God above all things, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and may you ever and always take shelter in the mustard seed of the bloody cross of Christ; knowing because of His cross, you are forgiven of all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the, Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen