Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
July 13, 2014
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Dear Friends in Christ,
People often use the same words but have entirely different meanings in mind. Johnny Carson, the former host of The Tonight Show, on the day after a World Series in the mid 1970’s, asked band member Tommy Newsom: “Well, Tommy, what do you think of the Cincinnati Reds now?” Tommy answered, “I just don’t like Communists! I don’t care where they live!” And who can forget the classic Abbott and Costello routine: “Who’s on first; What’s on second; I Don’t Know’s on third”? When someone is trying to have a meaningful relationship with someone else, though, such misunderstanding is not funny. It can be devastating. Communication experts tell us that filters often inhibit meaning between the sender of a message and the recipient. The filter of sin can prevent us from a relationship with God.
We need to be active listeners of God’s Word and that is the crux of the matter. How can we better understand what the Lord is saying especially when He speaks in parables?
“THE CHALLENGE OF HEARING GOD’S WORD”
Jesus knows his audience well. He is teaching the disciples and us that even though the Word of God is powerful, in our sinful state we can resist it or even misunderstand it. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him; faith is a gift. So what does keep us from hearing?
Jesus says one challenge is the devil. He is like the birds who snatch the seed off the path. We know the devil exists because he can pervert our thoughts even while listening to a sermon. What are you thinking about right now? What you did last night? What you have planned for today? The devil can shorten your attention span and bring thoughts into your minds that have no business inside God’s House.
Jesus says another challenge is your flesh. Our sinful flesh looks for the next spiritual high. As long as things are sailing along we are all for God’s Word. But when problems arise we can be quick to abandon. This is the seed on rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more in line with our thinking.
Another challenge Jesus puts forth is the world. We have many cares that take away the joy of just listening to the Word. We have the toil of work. We may become concerned about our income or kids or parents. We may have health problems or life decisions looming before us. These all make it difficult to relax and just listen to the soothing voice of God.
These three: the devil, the world, and our flesh are the unholy trinity that challenges our hearing. The meaning to Commandment Three calls on us to not despise preaching and God’s Word. Yet when we fail to listen and understand this is exactly what happens.
But when the Word is heard – oh, what blessings! Jesus said to the Twelve, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (vs. 16-17)
How does that happen? Jesus answered it this way: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (v. 11) Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word is given; it’s a gift.
You have been gifted. Just now. Again. For many it first happened at Baptism as your eyes were opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. You continue to hear God’s word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life – just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.
Jesus death conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. With the Lord’s Spirit we can overcome these and through faith we can meet the challenge of hearing God’s Word.
God, who has given you ears to hear and understand, has also given you abundant, fruitful ears of crop to sow for the spreading of his kingdom. You can be active in supporting the public proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments in our congregation. You do this each time you make worship a priority for you and your family. You can sow the seed in your day-to-day life. Don’t be afraid to share the truth of God’s Word as He gives opportunity. The Lord says to expect an extraordinary harvest when you do.
So when you have trouble listening to the sermon, don’t blame the message or messenger, but examine yourself. What is challenging you to hear God’s Word? Put to death those thoughts in your heart as the Lord Jesus heals you.
Every chance to hear God’s Word is a blessing. We need the strength and power that it can provide. It does not return void. The account of God’s redeeming us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection works wonders on us.