With a few warm days, rural America turns its attention to another growing season. What an occasion to focus reread Luke 8:4-15. When it comes to planting and farming, what makes fruit grow? What is needed for good healthy fruit? There have been biogenetics and technological advances made in the seed industry to try and increase yield and durability among many different soil types, but what is essential to the production of fruit has not really changed.
First, a seed is needed. The seed is sown and planted, and this is the first, and most logically first of course, the first step to growing. The seed by itself cannot do much, and so soil is also needed. The seed needs something to grow in and take root. Apart from the soil, water is essential for the growth of a plant; and not just water, but food is also needed. Through food and water, the seed, the plant, is given the nutrients it needs to grow and do its work. This all seems simple enough, but still more is needed for the growth of this fruit. Light is needed. Without the light, the fruit cannot get to the end stages; it cannot survive without light and heat. Light is needed for the very basic process of sustaining life through photosynthesis. The last element needed for the growth this fruit is time and patience. A fruit tree does not produce fruit overnight, corn and beans are not ready to harvest the day after you plant them; seasons go by before you are able to harvest them.
Using this metaphor; this image of seed sowing, Jesus teaches us many things about the Kingdom of God, about Himself, and as we approach Lent, He teaches much about ourselves. The first question that a good farmer would ask Jesus about this text is “Why would Jesus be so careless with His seed?” And one can see their line of thought. Jesus knows the hearts and minds of those to whom He is speaking. He even shows this through His parable that there are many who will hear and not be saved; there are many who will hear and not produce fruit.
So why wasn’t Jesus more careful with His seed? This teaches us something about ourselves and the Kingdom of God. It would be pointless for us to try and determine which soil we in fact are. To try and determine this with utter certainty would lead us into despair or lead us into self-righteousness, much like that of the Pharisees. The truth is that our soil can change from day-to-day, and even hour-by-hour depending on the day. Jesus sows His seed, which He tells us is His Word, the Word of God, everywhere and to all people.
This is the example we are to follow. We are to spread the Word of God without discretion. It is not our task to spread and plant only that seed which we think will stick and take root. We are to spread the Word of God and spread it indiscriminately. We are trust not in our own merit; not in our own works, but we are to trust solely in the promise reminded to us by Isaiah that God’s Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which it was sent.
Let us look through this parable again and the different elements of what is needed for growth of fruit. First is the seed. Jesus says the seed is the Word of God. The Word of God is the essential element for the whole process to begin. Without it, nothing will happen. The Word is what brought everything into being. The Word is what became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word is that which died and rose again. The Word is what brings life and immortality to light. The Word is the very element that brings and gives and renews life. Without the Word, we are dead. Without the Word, there is nothing.
Next is the soil, and that is us. Again, we can be anyone of the soil types depending on the day. In the first type of soil, we see the devil at work. With his temptations and scandalous work of stealing away the Word of God by casting doubt and discouragement. In the second soil type, we see the work of our sinful nature. We hear with joy, and then when times get tough, we rely on our own strength and wisdom or ability or power; we focus on our-selves and care little for the Word of God. In the third soil type, we see the work of the world and its enticements to our sinful nature. The cares, the riches of the world, the pleasures of the world over-shadow the Word of God. We let the world and it cares or enjoyments take precedence over the hearing and learning of God’s Word. In this soil we even listen to the Word of God as we would to any other type of entertainment. Thereby we make His Word the same as every other Word. We hear it only to learn what we want, and let the world teach us the rest. We don’t give the precedence to God and His Word alone.
As we reflect on the Word of God, we cannot help but reflect on the command of this Word. The 3rd Commandment is given to protect the Word of God. What is the 3rd Commandment? Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Through the death of Christ, every day has been made holy for us. We are to live each day with holiness upon our hearts, bursting forth from our lips, and oozing through our lives. Every day is holy to the Lord. The 3rd commandment has several elements. One is a day for us to rest from labors. There is a day, and it doesn’t necessarily mean on Sunday, but there is a day and a time we are to rest from constant labor. To work continually all the time will cause physical, mental, and spiritual burnout.
Besides the issue of rest, God has placed the hallowing of His Word in this commandment. How do we keep the Word of God Holy? Simply we do not despise preaching and His Word. We approach God’s Word with joy and gladness. Where His Word is proclaimed, we rush joyfully and with glad hearts we sit and listen to what He has to say to us. What is needed for growth of fruit? Water is needed. Water and Word together is what? Baptism. There Word and water are joined together for wonderful washing of rebirth and renewal. Faith, forgiveness, victory that Christ, the Word has won, now becomes a reality for the one who is washed in water and Word.
Food is also needed for the growth of fruit. Word and food joined together: Lord’s Supper. There the Holy Meal is given for forgiveness, life, and strength to you the plant. What else is needed? Light. There again we come back to the Word of God which is specifically connected with Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. God’s Word is something that continually guides our feet through the darkness of sin, our sinful nature, and the darkness of the world. One of the devil’s greatest weapons is acidia, or laziness or weariness. Our sinful nature likes to listen to this and we tell ourselves that we know it all and we no longer need the light of Christ. We no longer need to learn and hear, because we have graduated. Many times, we have associated confirmation with graduation. We wear the same gowns almost, and we have the same types of parties. Don’t hear me in the wrong way, confirmation is something that we should celebrate and it is something that does take a lot of work; but Confirmation is not graduation. When you are confirmed, you are not done learning. Rather, it is imperative that we then work harder to not become lazy in the hearing and studying of God’s Word. Confirmation is a basics course in the elements of the faith.
The final element needed in the growth of fruit is time. The soil must be cared for; patience is needed. For this time we turn to Hebrews 10:25 that reminds us, “Not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Faith must be nurtured and tended. That is the structure of the Divine Service. Our faith is fed through the Word of God in “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”
Looking back through all of the essential elements of growing fruit, what do you notice? We are the soil, but everything happens to and through us. We rely not on ourselves, but we rely on God. He does the sowing, the planting, the watering, the feeding, the light-giving, and all on His time. We are called simply to produce fruit. How do we do that? Solely through the grace of God. Did you know, that roughly 10% of communication is the actual words that you say; the other 90% is body language, tone of voice, and the like. That means sharing the love and Word of God is not just in what you say, it is also in what you do.
As we approach Lent, as we reflect on our soil types, and the many assaults that happen to the word of God from the devil, the world, and even ourselves, we are not left in despair. Jesus said that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. That means that He has authority over all, He has given that victory over those assaults which He won through His own suffering and death; and He has given that victory to each and every one of you. That is why we can approach God’s Word with Joy. He has opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.