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He Who Has Ears to Hear, Listen Up!

July 16, 2017

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost                           Trinity Lutheran Church

16 July 2017                                                         Murdock, NE

 

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

 

In His Word God speaks to you. Through the word of the law He accuses and puts the old Adam to death spelled R-E-P-E-N-T. Daily. Through the gospel word of forgiveness He creates a new creation spelled F-A-I-T-H that clings only to Jesus. Daily.

 

The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1). Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ (Rom 10). The holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim 3). Consequently the Small Catechism correctly teaches that, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus my Lord or come to Him but the Holy Spirit calls me [to faith in Jesus] by the gospel.” One of the greatest gifts God gives you is His Word. And through the Holy Spirit-filled preaching of the Word of the gospel He gives you the very salvation Jesus won for you on the cross. What joy in such salvific hearing of the Word of Christ who pulled off a Good Friday just FOR YOU. That’s spelled F-A-I-T-H. Faith only in Jesus.

 

That’s precisely why Jesus says to you today in the text: “he who has ears, let him hear.” Do you have ears? Then you’d better listen with the ears of repentance and faith in Jesus when you hear the Word preached! Seriously. What in the world is the most easily ignored, blown off, disparaged or rejected? Hmm? It is the faithful preaching of God’s good news of salvation in Jesus that goes on your midst Sunday after Sunday, year after year, as long as God let’s it. So, Jesus tells a story, a parable, to illustrate what is at stake. Your salvation is at stake. So, “he who has ears, let him hear.”

 

There is nothing more disastrous and hellacious than ignoring Jesus’ words today: “he who has ears, let him hear.”   If you hear the preaching of Christ’s God-in-the-flesh-reign-on-the-cross and you’re bored with it or don’t believe that this was truly done FOR YOU, the Evil One comes and snatches away what has been sown in your heart. The Word of Christ goes into the ears and to the heart but it is not comprehended. It is not inwardly digested. Such a calloused hearing says: “I have no need for the gospel, for Jesus, for His forgiveness, His gifts of baptism, absolution and body and blood.” Such a hardened hearing says, “Been there. Done that,” yawns and rolls over to go back to sleep on Sunday morning.

 

And then God allows the devil to snatch away the gospel from you. God forces no one to listen to the gospel. If you prefer the lie to the truth of Jesus, then God will give you the lie. If you prefer the false preachers to the faithful preachers of repentance, faith and holy living, then God will give you false prophets. That is God’s judgment against the rejection of the preaching of Jesus. Dr. Luther once remarked that the gospel is like a Regenplatz, a little rain shower that is here today and gone tomorrow – moving on to somewhere else. He’s right. Look at history. Consider the Middle East and northern Africa – the cradle of Christianity. Now the gospel is rarely heard. It is almost extinct in those parts of the world. The gospel has been replaced by the Muslim call to prayer and the false teaching that Allah is God and that Muhammad is his prophet. So too now in Western Europe. In Great Britain alone over the last 20 years more than 500 churches have closed their doors and 423 mosques have been built. Within London itself there are now 100 sharia courts in operation.

 

So, we all need to be aware of and on guard against the hardening of the heart to the gospel lest the Lord take it away from us. There is a sclerosis to the gospel that is at work in all of us. We hear the gospel but it has no impact. The gospel goes in your ears and then ricochets off the sclerotic heart.   We make excuses. This hardening of the heart is the 24-7-365 desire to justify ourselves, to deny our sinfulness and our need for Jesus’ forgiveness. To push our will against God’s will. To push our words instead of the Lord’s words. We must repent of our hardened and calloused hearing of the gospel. Otherwise we could lose the gospel. God may just let the devil gobble it up like birds pecking seeds from the pavement.

 

We also need to be aware of and on guard against what I like to call “Christianity lite.” The gospel is heard initially with lots of “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” but there is little true repentance and true faith in Jesus. It is the religion of the easy chair instead of the cross. It is the religion of the wide road rather than of the narrow. Everything happens immediately in shallow soil. The seed sprouts immediately and just as quickly it grows. But without root, without depth of soil the tender shoots are vulnerable. They cannot survive the heat of the July noonday blistering sun. The gospel is heard and received with immediate enthusiasm but that joy, joy, joy, joy turns out to be just a temporary fad that dries up when the cross comes.

 

Would you be here today if it was illegal? If your presence here would subject you to fines and penalties? Would you continue to hear the gospel, receive the absolution and eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood if it would cost you your reputation, your job or even your life? I trust and pray that you actually would be here. After all, you know that the words of Jesus are the words of eternal life. Right? Of course! Well, I believe that we are on the ragged edge of being tested in precisely that way. The depths of our roots will most likely soon be tried by the heat of persecution.

 

Sower Jesus sows His seed and some of it lands in the thorns. The thorns choke out the young seedlings. This is a conflicted hearing of the gospel. Jesus gets preached and heard. But there are other voices that want your hearing and your worship. These other voices are like bramble bushes in a field. And there are two kinds of bramble that threat to choke out our faith in Jesus.

 

The first is anxiety due to the cares of the world. What will we eat? Drink? Wear? How can I get my laundry done and my house cleaned? Sunday morning is the only time? We are anxious and worried about so many things? Anxiety won’t let you trust Jesus. Anxiety won’t let you pray to Jesus. Anxiety is a false god that never comes through for you. It chokes out faith in Jesus.

 

The second bramble thorn bush is greed. The endless pursuit of cash for the sake of cash. The desire for more, better, faster, bigger and brighter. St. Paul is exactly right when he says that many have wandered from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs on the sharp thorns of greed. Greed turns the creaturely gifts of God into idols – greedy false gods that totally consume your time, energy, resources and attention until you are no longer able or willing to hear the gospel, to pray, or to worship Jesus.

 

I know. I know. I’ve got to wrap this up. You’ve been so kind to listen so far. I beg you to listen for just a few more minutes. Here goes. You, brothers and sisters, are that field in which Sower Jesus sows His seed. You are that soil that He would make into good soil. Now, listen carefully, no soil is self-tilling otherwise gardening would be a cinch and the Roto Tiller sellers would be out of business. No heart is self-softening or you would have no need of the law and repentance.

 

So, God does the tilling and the turning. He does it through the difficulties and disappointment, the disasters and diseases, the trials and tribulations in your lives. He does it through His Ten Commandments that clear away all your boasting and bragging – all the ways that you use for self-justification. He plows under your pride. He breaks up your hardened hearts. With the tilling blade of the law He cuts through your hardness to the very depths of your deadness. He weeds out every distraction, every idol, every denial of Jesus.

 

Through all that God teaches you to trust in Jesus. To receive everything as a gift from His hand. To recognize that even in the most painful things He turns and tills you like soil. He breaks your heart in contrition and into those broken and contrite hearts He sows the greatest gift of all: Jesus the Savior. That seed bears fruit. The gift of Jesus bears fruit in you, a hundred, sixty, thirty fold.

 

So, when it feels like God is plowing you under, the parable of the Sower reminds you what He’s up to in your life. He is making good soil out of you with His promises of forgiveness for Jesus’ sake in your baptism, in the absolution, in today’s sermon and later in the Lord’s Supper. God is sowing the gospel of Christ Jesus into you!

 

And you can expect a harvest from the seed that is sown! Just like you prayed in the Collect for today:                “Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so HEAR them, READ, MARK, LEARN AND INWARDLY DIGEST them.” And what is the fruit that you are to expect? “That we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

 

God’s Word that He sows will not return to Him empty. He will raise you from the death of your sin, from the death of your grave, like seed sprouting in good soil.

 

“Let the person who has ears to listen with – listen up!”

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

 

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