Cultivating Receptive Hearts / Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 12th 2020 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 12th 2020, The Season of Pentecost, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 “Cultivating Receptive Hearts”
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And He told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, 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 produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
“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 has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he 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 deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There’s nothing much lower than dirt. People put paths and roads, freeways and highway over dirt. The thorns and the thistles grow up over and above the dirt. If you look around you’ll see rocks and boulders lying on top on the dirt, you’ll see mountains of shear stone raising high above the dirt. Of course all dirt is not the same, some is sandy, some is full of rocks and pebbles and stones, some has too much clay in it. Good soil, good dirt isn’t found everywhere you need the right conditions for good soil, good dirt. Agriculture is generally the work of cultivating good dirt, good soil, so that the seed sown by the sower will yield a fruitful harvest: trees and bushes need to be removed, stumps might need to be dynamited out of the ground, stones need to be picked from the field sometimes by hand and the dirt needs to be tilled and fertilized and irrigated.
When Jesus tells the parable of the Sower sowing his seed Jesus tells it to people who have an idea of how much effort goes into producing good soil, good dirt. Also He told it originally to people living in a rather arid environment where many areas of the country where not suitable for growing any kind of crop. You may have heard other Sermons on this parable that focus on the fact that the disciples, unlike God, can’t see what the hearts of men and women and children actually look like, that is they can’t see if their hearts are like a hard path, or rocky ground, or a shallow bit of dirt or a thistle patch or good soil, good dirt: and because they can’t see which is which the disciples, and later through history the pastors and preachers, simply needs to sow the seed of the Good News, Preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified, to everyone without favouritism because they cannot know where it will sprout and grow in faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make it grow. It is the work of the preacher to faithfully sow the seed with reading, preaching and teaching God’s Word.
Anyone involved in farming will tell you that the one who cultivates the field needs to be active in keeping it in good shape for harvesting a crop. If the field is left to its own devises it will be full of trees and brush, full of weeds and thistles and dense scrub. There are even geological forces like erosion that impacting farming. When we think of our heart as being like that field we need to remember that we don’t hand pick the stones out of our own heart, we don’t remove the paths laid down by the World with our bear hands, we don’t cut down and till up the thistles ourselves. In Ezekiel 11 God promises that He “will remove the heart of stone from [your] flesh and give [you] a heart of flesh, that [you] may walk in [His] statutes and keep [His] rules and obey them. And [such people] shall be My people,” God says, “and I will be their God.” What good news, God makes the heart of a person ready for His Son, for the Good News of His Son, “But [God also warns us] as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD.” Don’t resist the work of God as He works on the field of your heart.
In Deuteronomy we also find this promise, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” In our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 55 we hear the promise of God that the word that goes out, that is the seed that is sown, “shall not return to [God] empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,” God says, “and shall succeed in the thing for which [He] sent it.” The Holy Spirit is active in making this happen and so is Christ Jesus.
To see how Christ is active in this let’s look at another parable told by Jesus, “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Who is the vinedresser? It is Jesus. God is very interested in your heart. When He comes to it, your heart is in desperate need of cultivation, of preparation, like a wild patch of land seemingly unsuitable for agriculture He comes to it, Jesus describes the heart saying, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” These are stones and thistles, gnarly old tree stumps deeply rooted, they are the hard paths of the World and they need to be removed, dynamited by the Law of God, and handpicked out of your heart by the gracious and merciful nail pierced hands of your Saviour Jesus. And even as your faith grows to maturity along The Way it is the Holy Spirit and Jesus, Himself, who work to cultivate and create the conditions necessary to bring forth the Fruit of Spirit that the Father desires to see in you: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
I started out saying that there was nothing much lower than dirt. And that’s true, but the good news is that God loves to lift up the broken hearted, the downtrodden, the stepped upon. He brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate and Jesus teaches in Matthew 23, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” As we hear in James 4, [the Lord] gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” And then James teaches, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” Which is to say don’t be so proud, recognize that it is God who does the exalting, if you exalt yourself, if you lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, if you go about prideful picking the stones and thistles from your own heart you will be doomed to fail. Your success will not be eternal, it will not be everlasting; such a harvest grown from such a field will not last it will spoil in the tests and trials of the World. Don’t fight to wrestle the shovel or Ho out of Jesus’ hands; don’t fight Him for the keys to the spreader or the combine. The field of your heart is not a self help hobby farm, it is humble dirt that needs to be cultivated and implanted with faith.
The other bit of Good News is that in Christ Jesus we know that God doesn’t mind getting his hands down in the dirt, in the mud, in the soil of our hearts. He is willing to touch death, to get dirty, to spread manure, to pick the rocks out by hand to be pricked by the thorns of your sin in order to create in you a clean heart, a fertile field for the seed of His Holy Word.
Our challenge right now has been our isolation during the threat of Covid-19: Does it feel like the weeds and thistles of the cares of the World and the deceitfulness of riches, or the lack thereof and the desire for them, are wrapping around your neck to choke out God’s Word, do you feel as if the evil one, as a murder of pecking birds has come to snatch away the faith from your heart, or that you’re in danger of falling away due to the tribulations of our times, if this is you rest in Christ and know that His nail pierced hand is at the plow, His nail pierced hand is shooing away the devil, and holding you up, lifting you up in your distress. Trust in Him; as He said to you last week, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Earlier, before the Sermon, we sang the hymn “Preach You the Word,” it fits well with our Gospel reading today, it fits the parable well, it is focused on the sowing of the seed, the Word of God, and we’ve been talking about the condition of the soil and who tends the field, so I’ll leave you with the first verse of another hymn that puts its focus on what we’ve been talking about today. It’s also a prayer and it goes like this, “On what has now been sown Thy blessing, Lord, bestow; The pow'r is Thine alone To make it sprout and grow. Do Thou in grace the harvest raise, And Thou alone shalt have the praise!” To God be the glory as He works in your field, as He picks the stones of your sin, as He forgives you, as He implants faith, as He makes that faith grow, as he brings forth the fruits of faith that He desires, in Him and in His Son, Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Ezekiel 11:19–21
 Deuteronomy 30:6
 Isaiah 55:11
 Luke 13:6–9
 Matthew 15:19
 Galatians 5:22–23
 Luke 1:52
 Matthew 23:12
 James 4:6
 James 4:10
 Luke 9:62
 Matthew 11:28