SIXTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST
Sower, Seed, Soil Sunday
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
660 Frances Lane
Ashland, Oregon 97520
The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor
THEME of The Day The Seed—The Word
God said, “My Word that goes out from my mouth … will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).” It is like rain that waters the earth and brings forth vegetation. It is also like the sower who scatters seed indiscriminately. Our lives are like seeds sown in the earth. Even from what appears to be little, dormant, or dead, God promises a harvest.
Today we pray that the powerful Word of God will flourish in our midst, that we may hear the Word and understand it, and bring forth a bountiful harvest of the fruits of the Spirit in our lives for the glory of God and the building of his Kingdom.
May God bless your worship this morning.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us adore our heavenly Father, who created us, who sustains us, who loves us
with an everlasting love, and gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the
face of Jesus Christ.
We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord
Let us glory in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for
our sakes became poor; who became obedient unto death, even death on a cross;
who died and is alive forevermore; who opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers who is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father; who will come again,
as Judge and King.
You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, by whom
we are born into the family of God, and made members of the body of Christ, whose witness confirms us, whose wisdom teaches us, whose power enables us to do far
more abundantly than all we ask or think.
All praise to you, O Holy Spirit.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, serve you, and find rest in you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Isaiah 55:10-13
[Preaching to the Babylonian exiles around 540 BC, the prophet announces the good news that the Lord will bring the exiles home. The effectiveness of God’s word is a theme that runs through chapters 40-55. What God says, will happen. The exiles’ return to the Holy Land in a new exodus is cheered on by singing mountains and by trees that clap their hands.]
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it
shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you
shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON Romans 8:1-11
[Paul has explained that, in spite of good intentions, no human being can ever please God by living in complete obedience to the law. Still, we have been reconciled to God through Christ and introduced to a new life of the Spirit.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do; by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds of the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
[In Matthew’s gospel, both Jesus and his disciples “sow the seed” of God’s word by proclaiming the good news that “the Kingdom of heaven is near.” Now, in a memorable parable, Jesus explains why this good news produces different results in those who hear.]
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on the rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arrive on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
The Gospel of our Lord. Praise to You, O Christ.
HOMILY The Word Among Us
Text: The Gospel Lesson
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
For a little more than four months now everyone’s life has been turned upside down under the cloud of COVID-19. We’ve seen the world’s life playing out in ominous ways, revealing an anxiety and an emptiness that frightens many of us.
During this time God’s people have seen the life of their parish communities playing out as well. It hasn’t been easy; it’s been a struggle. People who have been used to seeing each other in worship on Sundays have had that option shut down. Pastors and lay ministers who visit members in senior care facilities, hospitals and homes have that access shut down as well. We’ve had to adjust to liturgies that are streamed and to interactions that are conducted primarily by email or phone.
Strangely … though yet mysteriously … we’ve also noticed the reality of the Lord’s Word pressing in on our lives from Scriptures. And, as that reality keeps thudding into our lives, we see the incredible fullness and richness of life with God! It’s taken a while in these jarring and unsettling weeks for us to become aware of this, but the life … work … and worship as God’s people are not as non-essential as the local governments claimed when the virus was emerging! What our Lord is revealing more and more is how essential his Life is to the lives of his people as well as to the life of a bewildered … self-absorbed … ignorant … and trapped world! And so, the reality of the Lord’s Word keeps pushing into these unsettling months while holding our lives together still comes at us this morning from today’s Gospel.
Imagine, if you will for a moment, that I ask each of you to grab a pencil and some paper and write a story of a half dozen sentences that will be understood by both young and old alike. Your story is to describe what our most serious problem is in life, as well as what our greatest power is in meeting things that otherwise do us in. One final direction … your story is to be one that will stand the test of time for generations to come.
Who of us could do it?
The parable that serves as today’s Gospel Lesson does all these things as it describes life. Life hardened. Life made shallow. Life lost in distractions.
Literature plays with those descriptions and one of the characters whose lifestyle would find itself addressed by today’s Gospel is George Eliot’s, Silas Marner. Many of us had to read this classic in high school. Silas found himself betrayed by a friend and unjustly condemned by a church court. Angrily, he decides there is no God, and resettles as an unknown stranger in another town. There he becomes a reclusive tailor and spends his lonely nights counting his accumulating gold pieces by candlelight. His name, and this picture of him counting by candlelight, has become synonymous with all those negative words that describe greed: stingy … selfish … tight-fisted. Although times changed for Silas Marner and the sweet charm of an adopted girl brought happiness to his transformed life, one can only wonder whether he realized how others originally saw him. Did he know he was hardly normal … that he was off beat in a negative, antisocial sort of way? And was that all right with him at the time? George Eliot wants to make a theological point with Marner’s character: distancing one’s self from God can only lead to being a skinflint, and cherishing God’s gifts can open one up to a magnanimous quality of life.
There’s an insight into that character which takes us to the center of today’s Gospel. On the surface, this is a story about a farmer sowing seeds in a way that we might consider wasteful. In Jesus’ time, farmers walked the fields and sowed seeds from a bag hanging from their shoulders. Some fell on rocks … some on the path through the field … some in thorn bushes ... and some on good soil. What’s the point of such wasteful sowing? Didn’t they know any better? In some respects, the answer has to be, “that’s just the way they did it in those days.” In another sense, however, the method gives Jesus an opportunity to make a point about God and about people like you and me. “He who has ears,” He says, “let them hear!”
In the parable, Jesus is addressing people who all too often thought of God as one whose primary interest was in holding people accountable … how you measured up to His laws and expectations. But Jesus had another point of view. He knew that because of our sinful, self-centeredness, we would never be able to live up to God’s expectations if we only saw God as a stern judge greedily counting up the ways in which we measure up to His standards. Instead, Jesus’ parables are filled with extravagant kindness and generosity. The extravagant farmer sows seeds all over the place. He does it joyfully because he knows there will be a harvest. “This is the nature of God,” Jesus wants to say. If one looks for words to describe God, you have to try “magnanimous … lavish … beneficent.” And what do those descriptions do for your understanding not only of God, but also of yourself?
Those questions take us to the heart of the parable and to the different kinds of soil. Without getting lost in the details, there are basically two kinds of soil … bad and good. And to be fair, it would probably be better to say that both kind of soils exist within each of us—rather than thinking others may be the bad soil, and only we are the good. Bad soil is unreceptive … incapable of being overwhelmed by extravagant kindness. It’s the Silas Marners of the world … closed off from all the goodness around them. It’s the part of you and me that doesn’t want to hear how much we are loved or how many are our gifts. It’s the part of us that prefers to dwell on the satisfaction we get from success or keeping everything for ourselves. Bad soil is incapable of producing seed because it’s closed to the daily grace that can transform us.
Good soil on the other hand, simply produces. It produces because, by the power of the Spirit, it’s that part of us that is receptive to the seed of God’s word …open to the grace of God that lays claim to us in Christ who died and rose for us so that we might live abundantly in His love. Good soil is that part of us that seeks by the power of the Spirit to let God do His thing with us—affirming us and inspiring us to produce the kind of caring and generous spirit that only God … almost wasteful with His grace … can produce.
Think about that this coming week … think about the impact that might have in you … in our community … and world as you live out your life as a child of God in the coming week. During these COVID days where can you sow the seed … the good news of our crucified and victorious Lord and Savior? As God’s people, we need to be in the midst of settings that enable us to make this graced-world a better place because God has breathed on each of us with Spirit-given grace and love in Christ and called us to bloom where we are planted. “He that has ears, let them hear.”
O Lord, let our hearts and ears always be open to Your Word and will among us. Amen.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Called into unity with one another, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
Gracious God, your Word has been sown in many ways and places. We pray for bishops, pastors, teachers, missionaries, and newly planted congregations around the world. Inspire us by their witness to the faith we share. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of all creation, the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees and fields clap their hands in praise. We pray for the birds and animals who make their homes in the trees and forests, and for lands stripped bare by deforestation. Free us from apathy in our care of your creation and inspire us to toward sustainable living so that future generations may enjoy the goodness and blessings of your creation. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of counsel and peace, we pray for our nation’s leaders. Increase their desire for justice and equality. Bridge the chasms that divide nations from each other and guide authorities to a deep and lasting peace. During these days of protests and civil unrest, bring calm to our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of care, open our eyes to see and attend all who are in need. For those who are doubting, renew their faith. For those who are worrying, provide release. For those under doctor’s care especially John, Sarah, and Shari, bring your healing and strength as we lift them up in prayer before you. With your love, surround those who are homebound especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of renewal, revive your Church in this place. Nourish and nurture the seeds you have planted through our parish and campus ministries. Sustain and deepen our relationships with the wider communities in which we live. And as we await next weekend’s visit with Patrick Moore as our prospective vicar, help us discern your will for him and for us so that in all things your good and gracious will may be done. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of life, we give thanks for all who have gone before us with the sign of faith. Stir in us the desire to follow their faithful examples and sustain us as we serve you until the day you bear us up to join the saints in light. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray …
Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.