God is with us in Word and Sacrament



Luke 8:4–15


Ears to hear aren’t made of skin and cartilage. They can’t be grown or trained by adherence to the Law. Ears to hear only hear when they’ve been stopped and our mouths made mute, when our excuses have all run dry. In the Kingdom of God only the deaf hear, only the blind see, and only a fool will believe. We only live after we’ve died.

God hides Himself in the weakness of parables, that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand. Simple words, a simple story, told in agrarian color, conceals God from men too proud to belief that He is not like them. And that is always the point. God is not like us. He does not eat His own. He does not betray those He loves. He doesn’t cave into pressure, sell out to the establishment, or forget his roots. He does not neglect the things that are good or face the shame of weakness, error, and laziness. He does not tell lies about His friends nor relish in their anguish.

Thus He behaves in ways that baffle self-centered, self-satisfied men. He gives of Himself. He sows His seed in foolish, weak, and impossible places, with no thought of the gain or loss, only conscious that the seed is good and men are in need. He sows on the trodden path, the rocky patch, the thorny ground, into the deaf ear, the blind eye, and the hard heart. He sows where no drunken sower in his darkest hour ever sowed. He sows where wheat does not, will not, should not, and cannot grow.

And most is lost. Most is trampled, snatched, withered, and choked. Most is wasted, spent in vain, tossed away for nothing, good money chasing bad, indistinguishable from chaff in the wind, more inefficient than the government with a surplus! But still the Sower sows. He cares not. He cries, “What of that? It did not grow? It does not matter.” He sows on. He never counts the cost. He does not sow for profit. He does not sow for fame, honor, or prestige. He does not sow for the future. He sows because men are in need, because He is love and lavish in His gifts of grace. He sows in ways that men think foolish. For He provides, He gives, He loves for free.

The seed finds the earth, miserable, scorched, dry, rocky ground though it be, the dark pavement of our hearts. The seed finds the earth! Though impossible and ridiculous, miraculously some grows! Some transforms that trodden, rocky, thorny place into soil rich enough to bear a crop a hundredfold! And the Sower cries: “Ah, what of that! A hundredfold!” It took root in ears that could not hear. It grew to life in blind and unlikely corners where men had given up and moved on. It bestowed wisdom in the midst of foolishness and life in death. “It bears a crop where and when it pleases and that pleases Me,” says the Sower. Always it bears a crop—just not where men think it ought. For these fish are not caught with bait and hook but with grace. So, too, the harvest to come.

This Kingdom is not ours. It is not ruled in the ways of men; nor is it conquered and won in the ways of mankind’s commerce or wars. It is a Kingdom of Grace bestowed without thought to cost or fear of failure, motivated by that which we can only imagine: pure and perfect love. The Seed, the Holy Word of God, never returns to the Father void. He accomplishes the good work that He was sent to do: He saves the world. He forgives sins. He loves men. What of that!

This cannot be controlled by the plants that grow. He does not stop and check the credentials, the pedigree, or the intellect of those who hear it, nor, thanks be to God, of those who preach it. The Sower does not conduct demographic surveys or balance budgets or craft a vision and a plan. He doesn’t set goals and objectives. He just sows. For what He sows is the power of God for salvation. And though it seems a foolish waste, it changes lives, nevertheless. It heals disease. It puts an end to war. It never leaves things just as it found them. For it is the creative force of God Himself.

The Word that called forth a Messiah into the Virgin’s womb by the Virgin’s ear is the same Word that called forth a water of renewal and regeneration in John’s timid washing of the Christ. All who are joined to Him in those burial waters are His sons in whom He is well-pleased. Their sins wash off of them and onto Him and He raises them up again to life.

It is the same Word that calls forth out of wheat and grape, on the silver plate or fancy Cup, ordinary bread and wine no more but His Body and His Blood. His people eat and drink and proclaim His death until He comes again.

It is the same Word that calls a people who were no people, you who still are no people in this wilderness, this desert place of competition and violence, but who are a people in Him. By this Word, you are a mighty nation hidden in the meek. You are a unified race, whose unity is concealed in the diverse shades of your skin and the shapes of your eyes. You worship one Lord and await one Hope and know that whatever the future brings this is not your home.

No synod, no government, no heritage but this will last or matter.

The Lord has not forgotten you, His little flock, hidden in suffering and difficulty, fighting for every breath, battling against the forces of darkness that would squash the truth and lead men to the despair of their works, to false security in lying gods and the pretending prophets of peace who only return men to the law and deny them the comfort of God’s free love in Jesus Christ. You are the hundredfold harvest of grace. He transformed you by His Word, watered you with His Blood, sheltered you in His love so that you grow and live. He has done the impossible for you: forgiven your sins for free, without cost or charge or effort. By His unfailing Word you are His own, His beloved, His precious, adorable Bride, chaste and immaculate.

For you He suffered the weeds that choke, the birds that snatch, the rocks that bruise your roots and steal your moisture, the feet that trod upon your head. For you He died and rose again. He declares you innocent and pure. He opens heaven. And now there is no one to accuse you, nothing to add; nothing to prove; nothing to do. He has done it all for you. You are perfect, lush, and fertile in redemption. He has placed His Word into you and by it you live. Soon He returns to bring the harvest home, to complete what He has begun in you. He who has ears to hear let him hear. Amen.


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