Sunday, July 12, 2020
Lectionary 15, Year A

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Readings and Psalm (with Semi-continuous First Reading)
Genesis 25:19-34 Esau sells his birthright to Jacob
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 8:1-11 Live according to the Spirit
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 The parable of the sower and the seed

Sermon

Title:  Growing in God’s Garden

Oh, what you will find in the Garden of God.  Just look at the offerings this morning.  A scoundrel, a legalistic pugilist, and a careless seed sower.

First the scoundrel – Jacob is his name.  Cheating his hungry brother out of his birthright.  No, you say, defending him.  He made an offer.  Esau accepted it.  All is fair.  Is it?  Does this man really provide the honor and nobility that one should have if God is going to build a people from this guy’s family.  Is he really the best in fertile ground for growing?

Hear first where he goes from here.  After swindling his brother, he tricks his father.  His father-in-law swindles him.  So, he swindles him back. Then his sons do away with their brother and trick their father, proving that the apple does not fall far from the tree even in God’s garden.  All the while God is blessing him and preparing Jacob’s family with it’s 12 sons to be the 12 tribes of Israel (Israel being Jacob’s new, God-given name.)

But there are lots of other examples of scoundrels in the garden – Moses murders someone and is chosen to lead God’s people.  David is an adulterer and murderer and is always held up as the greatest of kings.  Jonah runs away from God’s calling but God doesn’t let him get away. 

We started our liturgy this morning listing all the reasons that God should have nothing to do with us.  What was on your short list?

PAUSE

If you are done listing those confessions, let’s move on to our legalistic pugilist.  We call him Paul.  A legalist as a Pharisee in his former life as Saul.  And one whose legalism drove him to seek to destroy the followers of Jesus.  But having seen the light, now he is writing a letter to the church in Roman that so clearly spells out the good news of Jesus Christ, that Luther liked to call this book of Romans the 5th gospel.  And today and for the following two Sundays, we will be reading from the rich heart of this book – the 8th chapter.  Paul has been leading up to this great proclamation.  The great illumination begins with the bright light of that opening line1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  In light of everything he has written in those first seven chapters, he can say this.  There is therefore, no condemnation.  You don’t get more of a turn-around, an about face, a change in direction, a conversion, than this.  In his legalist days, the law condemned, and obedience saved.  But in his new understanding, the law still points out our sinfulness, but it is Christ Jesus who saves us from sin and death.  Freely, by grace. For those who follow Jesus, it is not a life fulfilled by obedience, but rather a life filled with the Spirit who is our life now and forever.

What causes you to keep from trusting this good news?  From embracing the Spirit that comes to you through baptism and now lives in you?  Sure, you believe.  But do you trust?  If not, why?  If you do trust, why?  What helps you cling to that trust in the Spirit that fills you with true life? What would you share with someone who doesn’t trust?

PAUSE

There’s the scoundrel, and the legalistic pugilist – both changing so much that they both changed their names.  We too had a name change – at font we went from being children of Adam and Eve to Children of God.  But what of this careless seed sower?  No name-change here.  None needed.  No revelations in this one, no change of heart or practice.  And thank God for that. Because this careless sower is Jesus.  Throwing the word of God with abandonment and mercy, sowing with grace and truth.  God isn’t checking out the ground first and only sowing where the seeds will grow. In Christ, the seed is thrown everywhere.  And more than anything, God wants that seed to take root, to grow, to produce food for the world, and more seeds for more growing.  And that seed has fallen on us.  And while we strive to be the good soil; let’s be honest, and admit that we have been and are at times all those soil samples.  Where are you at today?  Is the good news of Jesus not getting past your ear drum before the worries of the day eat up any peace and joy you  might find in it?  Is the growth you have experienced being zapped by the scorching heat of today’s challenges?  Perhaps you thought you were doing really well, could see some real growth in faith and trust, but there has been one ordeal too many and now faith is choked, trust has withered.  No one is good soil all the time.  Look to the Spirit, who turns the soil, feeds it with God’s wisdom, nurtures it with the love of Christ, waters it with peaceful presence and tends to the growth that comes from the seeds that are planted in you.  You cannot make yourself good soil.  God prepares, God plants, and the harvest is God’s.  Ours is to catch that seed that is so careless sown on scoundrels and legalists, pugilists and pacifists, sinners and saints, doubters and believers, the living and the dead.  We pray: 

Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your word.
Lord let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.
When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost lead it on your way.
Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart be good soil.
(ELW 512, by Handt Hanson)

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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