Pentecost 6, a – July 16, 2017 – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – David R. Clark
CHRISTIAN, YOU ARE A SUCCESS WHEN…
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Dear friends in Jesus,
What is a success? What is success as an employee, a spouse, a student? It’s a hard question to answer. Here is a harder one: are you a success as a Christian? There is a trend in Christianity called the “gospel of success.” Those who follow this gospel define success in a way the Bible would not support.
Why is this so difficult? There are some remarkable events in the Bible (3000 baptized on Pentecost, Jonah and Nineveh, the wealth offered for the building of the temple) which many people might cite as the definition of success. But these are really quite rare. Jerusalem was destroyed while Jeremiah was alive. Elijah was certain he was the last believer of his time. Were they failures? What is success?
1. When you grow in faith.
(3-8a) Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop .
Farmers would take the seed and throw it out onto the field. It could fall in many different places. In this parable Jesus deals with four different outcomes for this seed.
The first seed falls along the path and is eaten by birds. This seed is people who hear the word of God but don’t understand it and Satan snatches them away. You have met someone who attended a wedding or a funeral and rejoiced over the gospel. But they have an addiction or were promiscuous or are undisciplined in their finances.
Seed also falls on rocky places. It takes root but the sun scorches it. This is describing people who hear the Word of God and rejoice when it takes root in them but when there is trouble or persecution, their faith dies because it is so shallow. It’s like the man who begins coming to church and rejoices that he has found in Christ. But his wife will not attend church and what he hears clashes with our culture. He falls away.
Some seed also falls among the thorns but it is then choked out by weeds. These are the people who hear and believe but then are taken away from the faith by the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of life. What bothers you? Naughty children? Insensitive spouse? Bad health? Crabby neighbors? Difficult boss? Uncertain world events? Any of these things can choke out faith.
The final seed is the seed that fell on good ground. This is the person who hears the word of God, it creates faith, and it becomes the most important thing in the person’s life. This person may also have big problems in life, but says to himself, ” I’m going to trust in my God knowing that he has saved me. I am also going to redouble my efforts to hear the word of God so that I am not the path or the rocky ground or the ground with weeds.” That is how Jesus defines success.
I have two encouragements for you in this regard. 1. Grow in the faith. Grow in Word and Sacrament so that you do not fall away. 2. This is not a competition with other people. We grow in faith at different rates. We also start at different points. If you plant ten tomato plants in your backyard, they do not grow the same way. This is also true spiritually. For some people growth will mean going from an acorn into a sprout. For others it will be going from a sapling into a mature tree. The emphasis is on growth, not winning.
2. When you sow in love.
And having grown in faith, let us remember the point is to produce a crop. That crop is love. (8-9) Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop –a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
From a little seed an entire stalk grows ears of corn and on each of those ears we find many, many seeds. Anyone who studies this process concludes this is a miracle. You are also a miracle. Having had that little seed planted in your heart it also grows to the point that it gives abundant return.
A single believer witnesses to his spouse through his words and actions. Together they tell their children, who also tell their children. That first believer also tells his co-workers and just one of them believes, who goes home and tells his spouse and their children and so on. From that one seed of God’s word an abundant crop is produced, just as Jesus says, a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was sown.
This is as much about love as it is about growth. Are you not overwhelmed that your perfect God sent Jesus for you? His perfect life, his humiliation and death, his resurrection was all for you. God loves you that much. The love that God has showered on all of us rocky ground, turns us into fertile soil. So we go forth and sow that seed with the same love in our hearts and on our lips.
Success means different things to different people. This is success to your Lord. Grow in your faith through Word and Sacrament allowing the fellowship of the church to encourage you. Sow the seed of gospel, showing the same love your Lord has shown you, you are a success. The results are up to the Lord and he never fails. Growing and sowing – that’s success for a Christian. He who has ears, let him hear. Amen.