The Glory Has Departed

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Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sexagesima Sunday, 2015. The Sower and the Seed.
Luke 8:4-15

Norma Boeckler - The Sower

Sexagesima Sunday, 2015

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #190               Christ the Lord                      1:52
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 339               All Hail the Power             1:57

The Sower and the Seed

The Hymn # 308     Invited                         1:63
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #46     On What Has Now Been Sown              1:62

2 Corinthians 11:19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.  21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.  22 Are they Hebrews? soam I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.  23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool ) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen,in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.  29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?  30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.  31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.  32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:  33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.  2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)  4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.  6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.  7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

By Norma Boeckler

KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Sexagesima Sunday
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that through Thy Son Jesus Christ Thou hast sown Thy holy word among us: We pray that Thou wilt prepare our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Thy word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Thy power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Thy grace and continual help, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Sower and the Seed

KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 

This parable is certainly one of the greatest and most memorable. The Good Samaritan focuses on Christ and His gracious care for us, found almost dead along the road.

This parable of the Sower and the Seed addresses another concern - how the Word of God spreads among people - or not - and appears to be a failure.

Jesus gave this parable and explained it, so we have His clear teaching in every regard, but few listen to His words or remember the parable. After all, studies by a suspect seminary--known for marketing and making money from nonsense--are so much more exciting, no?

Jesus taught this parable to very large crowds of people, but they were not intended to grasp it. Parables have to be taught. They are easy to remember in their details, but their meaning has to be presented in harmony with all of God's Word. Dabblers get everything wrong because they only want to play with the words.

Count the seeds from one seed.

5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

The words really matter. This is sowing seed, the method I still use. Some want to plant each seed or use seed tape for neat rows. I scrape up some loose soil and throw scoops across the top, and tamp it down. I sow lettuce seed like grass seed, right on top. The fine seeds find a notch in the soil and take root.

Sowing is important because broadcasting the Word has become a pun. We use the term for radio, TV, and Internet communication, but it came from tossing seed all over and expecting a crop. Sowing assumes that some seed will germinate and grow, other seed will be eaten or not grow.

2. The first class of disciples are those who hear the Word but neither understand nor esteem it. And these are not the mean people in the world, but the greatest, wisest and the most saintly, in short they are the greatest part of mankind; for Christ does not speak here of those who persecute the Word nor of those who fail to give their ear to it, but of those who hear it and are students of it, who also wish to be called true Christians and to live in Christian fellowship with Christians and are partakers of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But they are of a carnal heart, and remain so, failing to appropriate the Word of God to themselves, it goes in one ear and out the other. Just like the seed along the wayside did not fall into the earth, but remained lying on the ground in the wayside, because the road was tramped hard by the feet of man and beast and it could not take root.

This part of the parable explains why there are many people within the visible church who do not believe the Gospel even though they are active participants in Word and Sacrament. I have warned people that if they address apostate church leaders with the Word of God, the leaders will fly into a rage, get even, or play games with flattery - until they can strike later. The vast majority of bishops and District Presidents fire pastors on the spot or force a "voluntary resignation," so it is easy to see how little the Word of God is esteemed today, whether an official is ELCA, LCMS, WELS, ELS, or CLC (sic).

Likewise, there are laity who hold congregational offices and seem to glory in the destruction they visit on their own congregation. They piously gossip and slander. If they cannot say enough against the pastor to satisfy their desires, they attack his wife and children. And they are tolerated and defended by the other laity.

This needs to be remembered because bearing the cross does not always mean a foreign army will come in and torture Christians. Satan has a fifth column installed almost everywhere. This cross is much harder to bear among one's own pastoral colleagues and church members.

But it is also teaching about hope, because the Gospel Seed is sown and bears fruit, even in this cauldron of indifference. Someone may be an active opponent of the Gospe, within the congregation, for decades and then be converted by the Word, value it, and help others by describing his change of heart. I know a jailer who did exactly that.

If you garden - as all pastors should - then you know how birds keep their eyes open for food. They snatch up any seeds they can, because the newly sown are fresh, dry, and delicious. So Satan snatches up souls and holds them captive to his will while they pretend to serve in their congregations, districts, and synods. The first thing they brag about is their ecclesiastical honors. The last is their faith in the Word.

Every bird and many fur critters want these.

6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 

5. The second class of hearers are those who receive the Word with joy, but they do not persevere. These are also a large multitude who understand the Word correctly and lay hold of it in its purity without any spirit of sect, division or fanaticism, they rejoice also in that they know the real truth, and are able to know how they may be saved without works through faith.

They also know that they are free from the bondage of the law, of their conscience and of human teachings; but when it comes to the test that they must suffer harm, disgrace and loss of life or property, then they fall and deny it; for they have not root enough, and are not planted deep enough in the soil. Hence they are like the growth on a rock, which springs forth fresh and green, that it is a pleasure to behold it and it awakens bright hopes. But when the sun shines hot it withers, because it has no soil and moisture, and only rock is there. So these do; in times of persecution they deny or keep silence about the Word, and work, speak and suffer all that their persecutors mention or wish, who formerly went forth and spoke, and confessed with a fresh and joyful spirit the same, while there was still peace and no heat, so that there was hope they would bear much fruit and serve the people. For these fruits are not only the works, but more the confession, preaching and spreading of the Word, so that many others may thereby be converted and the kingdom of God be developed.

Luther is so old-fashioned: he preached about the pastors I know so well, Anonymous 1, Anonymous 2, Anonymous 3, Your Brother, Poor Sheep, etc. I am not against the use of false names or being anonymous, but I mean the exact same thing Luther addresses. When the time comes for them to speak out, they silence themselves because they fear the consequences.

This has to be faced honestly. Do I fear my relatives, my clergy friends, my pastor, my clergy superiors - or do I fear and esteem the Word of God? These same people (so terrifying in their wrath, so well paid) make sure the Word of God is silenced everywhere. When I began to list the silenced blogs, which I did not published, the URLs grew and grew in number. There were more that I remembered and even more that were erased permanently.

This is another sad aspect of church life, that so many love the Gospel when it involves no hardship, no shunning, no loss of income or reputation. But they say in a manner of speaking, "No one told me how much those splinters hurt when bearing the cross."

One of the great, funny, and poignant passages in Pilgrim's Progress involves them being stuck in the Slough of Despond, dealing with the frailty and difficulties of human nature. One companion says, "If this is how the journey begins, how will it end?" And he heads back to the City of Destruction rather than moving toward the Heavenly City.

Pilgrim's Progress, Slough of Despond

Pliable: At that Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our Journey's end? May I get out again with my Life, you shall possess the brave Country alone for me. And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got of the mire on that side of the Slough which was next to his own house; so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 

6. The third class are those who hear and understand the Word, but still it falls on the other side of the road, among the pleasures and cares of this life, so that they also do nothing with the Word. And there is quite a large multitude of these; for although they do not start heresies, like the first, but always possess the absolutely pure Word, they are also not attacked on the left as the others with opposition and persecution; yet they fall on the right side, and it is their ruin that they enjoy peace and good days. Therefore they do not earnestly give themselves to the Word, but become indifferent and sink in the cares, riches and pleasures of this life, so that they are of no benefit to any one. Therefore they are like the seed that fell among the thorns. Although it is not rocky but good soil; not wayside but deeply plowed soil; yet, the thorns will not let it spring up, they choke it. Thus these have all in the Word that is needed for their salvation, but they do not make any use of it, and they rot in this life in carnal pleasures. To these belong those who hear the Word but do not bring under subjection their flesh. They know their duty but do it not, they teach but do not practice what they teach, and are this year as they were last.

This has always been a problem, since the Christian Faith promotes prosperity. Once the effects are felt, the focus becomes wealth rather than faith. In some cases, it is just the pursuit of stuff.

Moreover, the wealthy know how to control the clergy with little gifts and rewards. The insurance company keeps their church leaders on a tether, letting them know that vast sums can go to other causes, not just their little synod. Both those bribing and those being bribed are lost in the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. 

Where do the WELS and LCMS DPs convene in the winter? In Minneapolis or the snow drifts of Boston? No they go to deluxe resorts in the Caribbean Sea and spend oodles of money on themselves. They deserve it. Did they not deal and wheedle  to become princes of the church?

8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

7. The fourth class are those who lay hold of and keep the Word in a good and honest heart, and bring forth fruit with patience, those who hear the Word and steadfastly retain it, meditate upon it and act in harmony with it.

The devil does not snatch it away, nor are they thereby led astray, moreover the heat of persecution does not rob them of it, and the thorns of pleasure and the avarice of the times do not hinder its growth; but they bear fruit by teaching others and by developing the kingdom of God, hence they also do good to their neighbor in love; and therefore Christ adds, “they bring forth fruit with patience.” For these must suffer much on account of the Word, shame and disgrace from fanatics and heretics, hatred and jealousy with injury to body and property from their persecutors, not to mention what the thorns and the temptations of their own flesh do, so that it may well be called the Word of the cross; for he who would keep it must bear the cross and misfortune, and triumph.

8. He says: “In honest and good hearts.” Like a field, that is without a thorn or brush, cleared and spacious, as a beautiful clean place: so a heart is also cleared and clean, broad and spacious, that is without cares and avarice as to temporal needs, so that the Word of God truly finds lodgment there. But the field is good, not only when it lies there cleared and level, but when it is also rich and fruitful, possesses soil and is productive, and not like a stony and gravelly field. Just so is the heart that has good soil and with a full spirit is strong, fertile and good to keep the Word and bring forth fruit with patience.

This is the great fulfillment of all the Gospel offers to the world. No matter how many difficulties lie in the way, the Gospel.

The sunflower is a good analogy. That seed is loved by 42 species of birds, who are not averse to digging it up. Squirrels adore it and become sleek with good health when they dine on it. I had squirrels who would not use the corn feeder because they were stealing the sunflower seeds from the garage. Their fur became extraordinarily beautiful on this diet of fat. protein, and vitamins. 

Every animal heart is set to eat that seed, and many seeds are eaten. But one sunflower seedhead has hundreds, if not thousands of seed on it, an enormous increase from one small seed that stays in the good soil, grows, defeats all predators above ground, flowers and fruits.

Everyone wants to fret about the seed that never seemed to produce, as if an outward show in church is the true sign of success. But only God can comprehend the heart of man and know true faith.

Too many congregations and pastors are buying their little packets of expensive seed from the vendors (Fuller, Willow Creek, Mar's Hill, Robert Schuller, Trinity Divinity) and planting in fear and doubt.

Instead they should be broadcasting vast quantities of Gospel seed, trusting in the Holy Spirit instead of Holy Mother Synod.

Parents have so many chances to sow this seed as the children grow.

And we all have opportunities to do our part.