The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
July 16, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
St. Matthew tells us “great crowds” had gathered to hear our Lord there on that sea shore. It was so large, the people so many, that Jesus gets into a boat allowing more people to gather in close to hear Him speak.
All of this paints an impressive picture. Is this not what we like to see? Many people hearing the Word of God? Many people gathered around our Savior… be it on a beach, in a church or wherever?
Yes! Certainly, but… here is the thing. Just being in close proximity to our Lord… simply having the opportunity to hear what He says… physically being able to receive into one’s ears the words coming out of Christ’s mouth does not guarantee that those words… God’s message… is really being heard, let alone understood, let alone rendering any blessing and benefit.
How does that happen? A question that we need to pursue because you know what? It happens a lot. It happens to loved ones and one would do well to consider… is it happening to me?
Our Lord here in our text chooses to speak to this crowd telling them the story of a sower and what happens to the seed that falls in different places. You and I know it well.
Having shared this with the people, His disciples come to Jesus in what is recorded in verses 10 to 17 which are not part of the appointed text, but actually, in my opinion, essential to the meaning and import of the same. Please, later this afternoon, this evening or this week, read the whole Gospel account in Matthew 13:1-23.
The disciples come and ask the Master, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10)
“And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’” (Matthew 13:11)
So, Lord, you don’t want them to know? To have this knowledge? Are you holding back the secrets of the kingdom from them? Are you hiding it from them?
You can just hear the news media of our day having a field day putting out a
Special News Bulletin, something to the effect – “Christ, the purported Son of God discriminates against large crowds gathered at the sea shore. Full story at ten.”
Two weeks ago, they would have had a field day reporting that “Jesus Christ, the so-called Prince of Peace, says He did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
Last week, based upon the Gospel lesson, the news headline would have read “Jesus admits hiding divine treasures from the wise and understanding and revealing them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)
Yes, again and again the news media in these hypothetical headlines get the facts all wrong… the story all wrong… (no comment)… but why do others, many others, the majority of others get it wrong … about our Lord, about His Word, about His actions. And could this be us as well?
Getting it wrong… all wrong, partly wrong, whatever… and then blaming God for not making it clear enough… or pastors… parents… teachers, because the last one we are willing to point a finger at, is ourselves.
The truth is… a person could spend all of their life in the church… seated where you are at (because God help the person sitting in your seat)… and again and again hearing the Word of the Lord… saying and singing the liturgy… joining in on the sacred hymns… praying the prayers… and amazingly… again and again leaving this sanctuary with little or nothing to show for it… nothing of substance learned… no wisdom gained or imparted to them.
You want to know why Jesus spoke to this crowd in parables, because He knew this crowd… every person in that crowd… every last one of them and although they had physically gathered to see and hear Him… this Miracle -Maker that they had heard so much about… they were spiritually not with Him at all. Not then. Not them. How about us?
Jesus flat out told the Twelve, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
They could have, but they didn’t. See, that is. Hear, that is. Understand, that is. And this not of their own doing but by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see… our ears to hear… our minds to understand and our hearts to embrace.
Look at the last thing our Lord says to the crowd after sharing the parable, there in verse nine of our text. “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9)
Again, with the help of the Spirit, they could have, but didn’t. And they like so many others, have only themselves to blame.
The irony of all this is that the parable our Lord shared with these great crowds was about them. Some of the seed, the very Word of God, didn’t have a chance in many of them because as fast as it was sown, it was snatched up by the evil one.
Some of the seed, the very Word of God, was joyfully received, but was not cared for and attended to and because it could not take root, take hold in a person, it was scorched by the trials and tribulations of the world and withered away.
Some of the seed, the very Word of God, sprang up all right in a person, but also alongside seeds that were actually the weeds of the world, the cares of the world, the allurements of the world that choked the Word to the point that, as our Lord said, it proved unfruitful in them.
And then comes the seed, the very Word of God, that lands on good soil. And look! It bears fruit. God’s Word bears fruit in such individuals in different amounts, some “a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
The amount may vary from individual to individual… from Christian to Christian… but the fruit is nevertheless there… definitely there… distinctly there… namely the fruit of faith… our loving THE LORD, serving THE LORD all of our days and our loving and serving OTHERS as well. You will notice that there is no me, myself or I mentioned here.
My friends, all of this is possible, only possible with the seed, the Word of God “sown on good soil” which our Lord immediately goes on to explain “is the one who hears the word and understands it.” (Matthew 13:23)
And… we are right back to the importance of this, “hearing thing” and understanding what we hear. Audiology, as you know is the science of hearing… the study of hearing. And who knows how the mechanics of the same are being taught now, but I learned about the “hammer, the anvil and the stirrup.” Does anyone remember this?
It really doesn’t matter, because we are not all that interested in physical hearing, but as I have been sharing… about spiritual hearing… or what could be called “Spiritual Audiology” … that is, the ways and means by which we can hear, really hear and understand what all our Lord says to us… shares with us in His Holy Word.
And as we have said a million times, it is only by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is HIS WORK… yes, but also there is that IN US part… where we can either welcome the same and take it all in… drink it all in (ok, that’s a mixed metaphor)… where we willingly, wanting, actively hear and hear more, hear again, rejoicing in it, growing in it, understanding it more and more (which will come with time spent actively hearing)… and applying all of this to our lives… now as you are here in God’s house… when you are back at your own house or wherever you may be.
Dearly beloved of the Lord, our Lord said to His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.” Make no mistake about. He says that to all His disciples throughout time including now, right now… His disciples gathered here in this Holy House and around the world.
To all believers… to all true hearers has been given the knowledge and the understanding of the full and complete forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus… the knowledge and understanding of our salvation and eternal life… the knowledge and understanding of the countless blessings that are showered upon us now and many more in eternity.
To all believers… to all true hearers has been given the secrets of God’s Word, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.
To all believers… to all true hearers has been given the secret of the cross.
Isn’t it interesting that with all other secrets, they are meant to be kept from others. God’s secrets… the divine secrets here mentioned and many more… are meant to be known… lovingly made know… are known… to those who have ears to hear. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Spiritual Audiology” 7/16/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL