Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Prayer for Growth. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 5, Proper 10A, preached on Sunday, July 16, 2017, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich

          Today’s prayer is a memorable because it’s a vivid prayer.  In the Collect of the Word we pray that God would grant us to hear, read, mark, and learn His Word.  We vividly pray that we’d inwardly digest His Word, that we’d eat it, taking it into our bodies for nourishment.  Like our table prayers where we thank God for our food and ask that it nourish our bodies, in today’s prayer we ask God to grow and nourish us in His Word, giving us a faith that overcomes, a strong faith that holds on to Christ.
          The basic necessities of life are pretty simple: food, water, and shelter.  Amazingly at the root of all these necessities are seed and water.  We get our food from seeds.  We eat plants and we eat animals that eat plants.  Of course water is needed to grow seed and keep us hydrated.  Our shelter even comes from seed, homes built from the wood of trees.  Seed and water are needed for life on earth, and they’re also needed for our lives of faith in the kingdom of heaven, and today’s parable illustrates this. 
Jesus used parables, illustrative stories, to teach the truth concerning God’s kingdom.  In the Parable of the Sower Jesus tells the story of a man who went out to plant seed, but he didn’t plant seeds like we do.  We spend time precisely planting seed in perfectly tilled fields and gardens.  This man didn’t do that.  He simply went out and threw seed everywhere, letting it land where it may.
Some of the seed fell along the path was immediately eaten by the birds.  Other seed fell on the rocks.  It sprang up quickly, but it also died quickly.  Because it had no depth of soil it was scorched by the burning sun.  Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns choked it out.  Finally, some seed fell on good soil.  This grew and produced grain. 
After speaking this parable, Jesus explained to the disciples its meaning.  The seed is the Word of God, which is to be sown everywhere for all people to hear.  The seed that fell on the path are those who hear the Word of God and don’t understand it, and Satan snatches it away.  The seed on the rocks are those who hear the Word and joyfully receive it, but when troubles and persecution happen, they fall away from the faith.  The seed choked out by the thorns are those whose faith is choked out by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.  Finally, the seed that fell on the good soil represents those who hear the Word of God, believe it, and bear fruit that shows faith. 
With this parable Jesus explains that God’s Word is the seed of faith.  Like all seed this seed needs water to grow, and this water is also God’s Word.  The Lord said, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but is shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Is 55:10-11).  God promises His Word will produce faith.  His Word is the seed and water of faith.  And after hearing this promise and parable, we pray that God would produce faith in us, faith that overcomes. 
          We pray for faith that overcomes Satan as he tries to snatch God’s Word away from us.  The devil doesn’t want us to hear God’s Word.  He’d prefer us to be like the Pharisees who heard Jesus but rejected Him.  Satan wants God’s Word to go in one ear and right out the other.  He wants us to question God’s Word.  This was the foundation of his temptation in the Garden; “Did God really say?”  The devil twists God’s Word and takes it from us.  He delights when it isn’t spoken truthfully and when people are prevented from hearing it.
Because of this evil, we pray that God would keep us in His Word.  We pray we’d continually hear the truth of His Word, spoken and preached faithfully.  We pray we’d be able to read His Word, over and over again.  Because Satan never lets up in his attacks, we ask God to continually plant the seed of His Word in us. 
We pray for faith that overcomes our flesh, which wants an easy life.  We want to enjoy life.  We don’t want to suffer.  Hearing God’s Word promising us life and salvation, we joyfully receive it, thinking life will be great.  And then the rocky troubles of life come: stress, cancer, loss of job, divorce, death.  We start to experience persecution because of the faith.  Life’s not easy and because of that our sinful flesh tells us to give up the faith.  With shallow faith we quickly turn from God and His Word seeking out something else to satisfy our flesh. 
And because of this weakness in us, because of our sin, we pray.  We pray God would grant us to mark His Word.  We want to study it deeply so that the roots of our faith would grow deep.  We pray for the strength of faith to trust in Christ no matter what troubles of life we’re going through, even persecution for the faith, persecution that will come and is already here. 
We pray for faith that overcomes the world with all its cares and deceitful riches.  This world is filled with a lot of cares.  We all have responsibilities: family, friends, work.  There’s a lot to do and there’s only so many hours in the day.  All these cares wear on us.  And to add to it, there’s the promises of riches that will make life easy.  So we work extra hard to earn these riches to get rid of our stress, but it only creates more.  These cares and deceitful promises of riches quickly overgrow our faith.  They’re all we think about and the Word and our faith is choked out.
So we pray that the Lord will protect us from this.  We desire to continue to learning God’s Word so our faith and trust wouldn’t be in the things of this world but in Christ.  We pray that our faith would be nourished as we look to the everlasting life in God’s kingdom, the life Christ has won for us with His death and resurrection. 
          These are pleasing prayers to God, and He answers them.  He gives you faith that overcomes Satan, faith in Jesus who defeated Satan.  Fulfilling His promise in the Garden, Christ crushed the devil’s head on the cross.  With His death and resurrection, Jesus undid the sin and death that Satan brought into this world.  Satan can’t win, Christ already won the victory.  And with faith in Him, you resist the devil when he tries to steal God’s Word away.  With faith, you continually hear the Good News of Jesus who defeated Satan for you. 
          God gives you the faith that overcomes our flesh as He gives you His Spirit.  Having received this Spirit of adoption in your Baptism, as a child of God, you put to death the deeds of your flesh.  No longer do you seek to fulfill your sinful desires, seeking only the easy life.  Instead, continually hearing Good News of everlasting life in Christ, you willing suffer all, even persecution, because you know nothing compares to the glory of everlasting life in God’s kingdom. 
God gives you the faith that overcomes the world, giving you the hope of everlasting life.  This hope isn’t wishful thinking, it’s the confident trust in Christ’s salvation.  This hope looks to Jesus and desires His true riches: forgiveness and life.  This faith resists the thorns of this world that try to choke faith and God’s Word out. 
God’s Word is the seed and water of faith.  It’s the seed from which our faith grows and it’s the water that nourishes it.  Without the continual hearing and reading of God’s Word, our faith will be weak.  Without study, without marking and learning God’s Word, our faith will be shallow and wither.  Without inwardly digesting God’s Word our faith will starve and die, and so will we.  Therefore we pray for growth.  We pray that God will continue to send His Word to us and we thank Him for His answering of this prayer.  God has given you faith in Christ and through His Word, He grows that faith.  In Jesus name...Amen.

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