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Worship Series: Summer School - Lessons from Jesus
Worship Theme: The Parable of the Sower
First Lesson: Isaiah 55:10-13 (EHV)
Gospel Lesson & Sermon Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (NIV)
Music: CWS 735 Speak, O Lord, CW 324 Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast, My Confession of Faith, CWS 752 In Christ Alone (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: The Parable of the Sower
It’s time for a story! Can you hear the cheers from all the kids in the preschool room? It’s one of their favorite times of the day. I have to admit, I love story time too. I love to listen to stories. I love to read stories. I love to tell stories. When it comes to telling a story, my favorite is a children’s book called You’re a Hero, Daley B! by Jon Blake and Axel Scheffler. I love the story, the drawings, and the humor. I love sharing it and seeing the kids’ reactions! You’ll have to check it out sometime, or stop in my office. I’ll be happy to read it to you! I have other favorite stories—Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; The Arabian Nights, Harry Potter, Iron Man. I love stories. Do you have a favorite? What makes a good story? What makes it your favorite? Could it be what author Brandon Sanderson shared? “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”
Isn’t that what made Jesus such an incredible teacher? Could you imagine sitting in Jesus’ classroom? I think I’d even be willing to do summer school if I could listen to him. In fact, Matthew wrote, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable” (Matthew 13:34 NIV). Jesus knew how to connect with the people. Do you know what a parable is? It is an earthly story, like the one he shared today, with a deeper meaning, a heavenly meaning—to help us understand more about God’s kingdom and what Jesus came to do.
The story itself is very simple—a farmer went out to plant some seeds. We get it. We can picture it. Some seed falls on the hard path where it won’t grow, and the birds come and eat it. It’s gone.
Some seed falls on the rocky soil. It germinates and grows quickly, but withers just as quickly because it can’t send its roots deep into the soil.
Some seed falls among thorns and thistles. It starts to grow, but the weeds deprive it of sunlight, moisture, and nutrition. These plants also wither and die.
Some seed falls on the tilled soil. The ground is soft and perfect for planting. The seeds begin growing, and growing, and growing. Finally they mature and produce way more than just the one seed it took to grow each plant.
Jesus obviously has something he wants us to learn from this story. What questions come to mind? Who is the farmer? What is the seed? What is the soil? We ask along with Jesus’ disciples, “What does this parable mean?” (Luke 8:9 EHV).
Maybe the harder question for today is this: are we ready to listen and learn? Jesus put it this way: “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:9 NIV).
Here we go! Jesus even explained the parable so we understand exactly what he meant. “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11 NIV). Now we can even figure out who the farmer is. If the seed is the Word, then the farmer is Jesus. He’s the one speaking the words of God, tossing them here and there in people’s hearts. Once we’ve figured that out, then the words we sang in our opening hymn make a little more sense. “Speak, O Lord, as we come to you to receive the food of your holy Word. Take your truth, plant it deep in us; shape and fashion us in your likeness” (CWS 735). There is our prayer for today. Confirmands, that’s why you’ve been studying God’s Word from preschool through 8th grade here at Salem. Lord, take your Word and plant it deep in us!
Plant it deep in us Lord, not just on the surface where it might bounce off! Jesus said, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matthew 13:19 NIV). Sometimes Jesus sows the Word of truth in our hearts, and it bounces right off. Stop and think for a moment. What has Jesus said in his Word that you really don’t want to hear? “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38 NIV)? Love that person over there, as much as I love me? Why would I want to do that? He doesn’t look like me. She doesn’t act like me. He wears funny clothes that aren’t very fashionable. Her hair would look a whole lot nicer if she washed it a little more. We hear what Jesus said, but sometimes it bounces off our hearts. The devil plays his part all too well. When it bounces off, he snatches it out of our memories in an attempt to keep us from remembering it. Lord, plant your Word deep in us so it doesn’t bounce off!
Lord, plant your Word deep in us, not in a shallow, rocky heart. “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Matthew 13:20–21 NIV). A few years ago a man attended our Basic Bible Christianity class. He asked all kinds of great questions. He heard what God said and loved all of God's answers. Everything he read and heard sounded great. He joined the church and was really active. He sang in the choir. He helped with all kinds of projects around church. Then he lost his job and couldn't find a new one. His reaction? He blamed God. His joy turned to bitterness and anger. He told me that if the God of the Bible could allow something like that to happen, he couldn't listen to that God. His faith that had looked so strong and vibrant didn't have deep roots. It withered and died. Lord, plant your Word deep in us so that doesn’t happen!
Lord, plant your Word deep in us so we can survive the thorns and weeds. “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 NIV). Is that us right now? We hear God’s Word. We have more opportunities than ever before to hear it. We have in-person worship, online worship, daily online devotions, Bibles at our fingertips on shelves and apps. The Word is there, but there are also plenty of thorns and weeds all around us. Should we come up with a list? COVID. Masks. Tests. ICU beds. Unemployment. Racism. Intolerance. Arguments over funding / defunding police. Stock market ups and downs. Schools—open or distance learning only. Working and learning from home via the internet. Add to that all the other “normal” problems we face. The lawn needs mowing and I’m tired. We’re out of peanut butter. Who is doing the dishes and taking out the garbage? A bad cold, heart attack, a loved one dies. These “thorns and weeds” threaten to choke off the Word so we don’t hear Jesus’ promises anymore. Lord, plant your Word deep in us so that doesn’t happen!
Yes, Lord, plant it deep in us! “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23 NIV). Plant it deep in us, Lord, because that’s the only way we can produce anything good. That seed goes right to work in the soil of our hearts.
God’s Word has been working there for a long time. The first truth it plants in me is the fact that I'm a sinful human being. By nature my heart is always the hard, packed down soil. I don't want to hear what God has to say because he's my enemy and the Bible tells us, "The mindset of the sinful flesh is hostile to God" (Romans 8:7). I don't want to do what God says is right. It's hard. It's painful. Why bother? That truth bounces off my hardened heart The devil swoops down, trying to steal the seeds of God's Word. Then God rumbles into my heart with the rototiller of his law. He breaks up the hard, packed down soil and convicts me of what I've done wrong—every single thing, big or small. He tills up this soil and gets it ready for planting.
Once God’s Law tills the soil, he begins planting the seeds of the Gospel. He dropped one in my heart when I was baptized and said, "Your sins are forgiven." He dropped some more in when my parents told me about Jesus as my Savior from sin. He planted some more when I learned all those Bible stories in Sunday school, Lutheran elementary school, then high school, college and Seminary. God has planted a lot of seed in my heart, and it bears fruit.
He has done the same thing for each of you. Confirmands, you are about to stand in front of God’s altar and make some serious promises. You will promise that you believe the seeds planted in you are the true Word of God. You will promise to keep reading and studying that Word so the Lord can keep planting it deep in you. You will promise to stay faithful to him until death. Remember—only Jesus can help you keep those promises. You will struggle to keep them. Sometimes you will struggle to believe him. Remember, the Word planted deep in you has real power, and God makes it grow. He promised: “Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and do not return there unless they first water the earth, make it give birth, and cause it to sprout, so that it gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater, in the same way my word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty. Rather, it will accomplish whatever I please, and it will succeed in the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11 EHV).
Can I tell you a little story? In my first congregation, a girl began attending our school. Her name was Gloria. Gloria had never heard about Jesus before. Her mother was Buddhist, and her father was no longer part of her life. She came to school every day, and Jesus started planting his Word deep in her. Was it growing? We couldn’t see it, but it was. After a year or two, Gloria wanted to be baptized. Jesus washed away her sins with water and the Word and planted even more of his truth deep in her heart. I had the privilege of teaching Gloria during confirmation class. The Word had grown and produced a huge crop. Gloria loved to ask questions, and she was full of them. Gloria loved Jesus. We could see it in the way she did her homework and talked to her teachers. The Word produced all kinds of incredible things in her life, including the willingness to come to church every Sunday, even when her mother wouldn’t bring her. I was so proud of her, and so thankful for the Word planted deep in her. I don’t know where Gloria is today, but Jesus does. She will always belong to him!
I’d like to tell the same story about each one of you. I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished during your time here at Salem. I am so thankful for the Word planted in each of you. My prayer for you today and every day will continue to be, “Lord, plant your truth deep in all of us!” Amen!