“Again, Jesus began to teach by the lake. . . . He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said, “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. . . . The farmer sows the word.” (Mark 4:2-3, 14)
We are now in the season of Pentecost. When you were growing up, you might have known this as the Sundays after Trinity or even “Ordinary Time.” The color for the season is green. Green is the color of growth. During the time between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His sending the Holy Spirit, we continue to grow in our faith until He returns.
If you look outside, you can see all the green growth in the world around you. We had a cool spring, but now that it is a warmer out, the plants and trees and flowers are springing back to life.
In the past week or two I’ve done lots of planting. I planted flowers at my own house and over at church- geraniums, impatiens, marigolds, petunias and more. I’ve planted a number of vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, peppers and a pumpkin. All of these I bought as seedlings. Someone else had planted the seeds and cared for them, and all I had to do was transplant them into my garden. But there have been a few plants that I grow from seed- lettuce, carrots, beans and corn to name a few.
Planting from seed is much more work. The soil has to be carefully prepared. The seed is sowed into holes or furrows and covered back up again. The area needs to be weeded and watered properly. It’s a lot of work. The seed doesn’t plant itself. The soil doesn’t fertilize or water itself. The gardener has to do everything.
That’s the way things are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus pictures the Kingdom like a farmer going out to plant His seeds. The farmer is the one who does all the work. He is responsible for the seeds that he sows.
That’s the way things are in your life, too. God does all the work, just like a farmer planting seed. He has brought the word into your life through His Holy Baptism, Holy Gospel, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper. The growth in the church and your life is due solely to all His work.
But there are still things that work against God and His word in your life. All is not peaceful in the garden. And that’s what we’ll pick up next week.
Loving Father, as a farmer plants his seed in the ground, so you have planted your word in my heart. Help me to continue to grow in my faith my whole life long. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
“Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another --- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Granted, as we have experienced one of the coldest and snowiest winter in Chicago’s recorded history, it’s hard to imagine that summer will soon be here. Nevertheless, while the thermometer may not tell the tale, the calendar does. The summer months are upon us and the signs are beginning to appear. The grass is beginning to grow. Flowers are trying with all their might to open their petals. The birds are singing.
With the hope of warmer days and beautiful weather comes the desire to enjoy a little vacation and outdoor activities. We need that to “recharge the batteries” after a long and seemingly never ending winter. The warmth and the sunshine rejuvenate us and renew our energy and strength.
While all the summer activities do refresh us both physically and emotionally, let’s not let the summer months eclipse our need for spiritual refreshment either. By that, I mean attending worship. With the busy-ness that summer often brings, it is important that we remember that our “spiritual batteries” also need constant and consistent recharging.
The author of Hebrews expresses that need in the above verse. What exactly was happening with the church to which he wrote is unclear. However, what is clear is that at least some had given up meeting together,that is, some had quit coming to worship. In fact, he says that it had become a habit for them to miss worship. They had become used to not going to church for whatever reason and thus missed out on the gifts God gives in worship. What God provided for their renewal and rejuvenation, his Word and Sacrament, were neglected. Clearly he sees this as not being a good habit.
It is easy to understand how one might fall into that habit. With the summer months we feel we need a break from pretty much everything. When the weather is beautiful and there are so many options for what to do, worship can quickly fade into the background. However, while missing worship occasionally may not bring about immediate spiritual harm, missing consistently will. Batteries need to be recharged and if we fall into the habit of consistently missing worship, there is a danger that our spiritual batteries will eventually go dead and that’s a problem.
That’s why the author of Hebrews talks about encouraging one another to attend worship. He is not talking about nagging here. He is talking about the spiritual obligation we have to one another to build each other up in the faith. He is talking about urging your fellow Christian to come, to hear God’s Word and to be encouraged by the Gospel. And this he says, all the more as we see the Day of our Lord approaching. Worship is how our Lord prepares us for the Day when he finally returns. Worship is how he strengthens us to stand before him on the Day of Judgment. Worship is his way of equipping us that our faith might always be firm.
So, this summer, let’s not give up meeting together. I encourage all of you to make worship a priority. You need it. I need it. We all need it and through the ministry of Faith, Hope and Peace Ministries, God will strengthen you in your faith especially in this COVID.
Most Holy and Gracious God, you have called us by the Gospel of Jesus to be your people of faith and you have graciously given us worship wherein you come to us to give us your gifts. Keep us from being neglectful of these gifts so that on the day of our Lord’s return, we might be fully prepared to meet him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12: 46
Back in August of 2003, the east coast of the United States experienced one of the largest “blackouts” in history. With a nine second “hiccup” in the electrical grid, millions of people found themselves completely in the dark. Worse, having lived in the light, they found the dark both a scary and uncomfortable place to be.
One woman in Detroit spent eighteen hours in a dark, hot and stuffy elevator, wondering if anyone would ever find her. Thousands of commuters were stranded in New York subway tunnels needing rescue. They knew that venturing into the dark alone to find their way out would be too dangerous. Hundreds of merchants spent the night in their stores for fear that the cover of darkness (and disabled alarm systems) would bring out the looters looking for an easy mark. Indeed, living in the dark, though temporary, was a pretty uncomfortable place to be.
Living in spiritual darkness is also an uncomfortable place to be, especially for those who have lived in the light. We see that with the sin in our own lives. We see how the darkness of evil, the darkness of our own transgressions against God impacts both our faith and our relationship with God. Darkness pulls us away from the light and makes our hearts anxious and concerned.
Jesus, however, in the above passage from John’s gospel, tells us that he does not want anyone who believes in him to stay in the darkness. That is not why he came. Jesus came to shatter the darkness forever. He is the Light of Light, the very God of very God, who pierced the darkness to reveal a better way and a better life. He did this by letting the darkness pierce him.
The darkness of all our sins combined led Jesus to the cross where he was crucified and killed for our transgressions. In the darkness of his cross we have seen the light of our salvation. In the darkness of the cross we have seen the brilliance of God’s love.
That Jesus has shed his light on our lives is nothing less than an act of perfect grace. Certainly, with his light now shining, I now see the magnitude and the extent of my sin and the harm it brings. Without his light, I would never have known. His light also, however, illuminates his mercy and forgiveness. He has revealed his salvation so that we might live in his light. Actually, when you think about it, having seen the light, like those people on the east coast, it makes no sense to want to return to the darkness. Living the light is far better.
Granted, we all still venture into the darkness every now and then. It is an unfortunate trait of us human beings. But, the light of the cross of Jesus (which was strong enough to rescue us from the darkness) is there to rescue us over and over again. The beauty of Jesus and the light, which he has revealed to us, is that we can continually step back into the light and find his forgiveness; complete and total forgiveness.
Have you been living in the dark lately? If so, don’t stay there. Step into the light of your salvation! Step into the light of Jesus, the very Light of the World!
Most merciful and loving Savior, through the faith you have graciously granted us you have taken us out of the darkness of sin and moved us to the light of your salvation. Keep us by your grace in the light that we might always walk according to your will. Grant us, in those times when we choose darkness over light, repentance that we might turn back to you, return to the light and receive your forgiveness. In your name we pray. Amen.
“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true and every man a liar!” Romans 3: 3-4
Without a doubt we live in challenging times for our faith as Christians. We confess to follow Jesus who is “the way the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) however, the world around us vehemently insists that there is no such thing as absolute “truth!” Truth to them is nothing more than a “construct.” Truth is at most “truth for them” or “truth for me” but nothing more. Truth is certainly not universal. With no outside standard, objective guide to follow, man can make no clams as to what is ultimately true and what is ultimately false. All things, they say, are relative, i.e. morality, religion, and core beliefs vary depending upon the individual. Consequently, our faith, which claims not to be relative, collides each and every day with the world.
Those collisions can be painful. Society places tremendous pressure on those who do not conform. The media ridicules those who hold to absolute truth. Portrayals as intolerant and hateful are common. Who wants to be thought of as intolerant? Peers will mock you if you “look” too different or if you stand out. Does the term “Jesus freak” sound at all familiar? College and university professors will paint you as foolish, naïve and unintellectual. Do you like being thought a fool? Standing for God and his ways in an increasingly godless society is hard. Speak up for the unborn and see what it gets you? Speak up for traditional marriage and see what comes your way? Going with the flow, conforming our thoughts to match the world’s is the much easier path to take. The problem, however, is that we will confront God’s truth one day. We can count on that. Simply denying that his truth does not exist does not make it go away. It remains whether the world or we like it or not!
So, how do we as Christians equip ourselves so that we do not buy into this philosophical attitude? St. Paul in the above passage gives us our starting point and the foundation upon which we make our defense: “Let God be truth and every man a liar!” At first, Paul’s words might seem combative, however, he is stating nothing more than the fact that only God can be trusted in matters of truth. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has lost its ability to think clearly.
Consequently, as Christians, we begin our thinking not with our own thoughts, but with the Word of God. God’s Word provides the solid basis on which we stand and it is unchanging truth. You can count on it not to shift like the opinions and philosophies of our day. He provides firm footing in a world, which does not know what to believe any longer. In truth, we should marvel at God’s Word because He has decided to write to us, to show us His wisdom and to guide us in the ways of righteousness.
For the sake of Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has graciously called us to be His people. He had forgiven our sins and given us a new birth. We have been reborn so that we might have a “renewed mind,” (Romans 12:2). That renewal means, “to be made different.” We are called to think differently than the world; to see things from God’s perspective and trust that he knows more than mankind. This is a wonderful perspective to have and a comforting way to live.
His Word is truth. Study it, read it, mark it and inwardly digest it so that every aspect of your life reflects his truth. The more you are in the World, the more you need to be In The WORD! And, remember, “Let God be true and every man a liar!”
Gracious God, we thank You that in Your great wisdom You have given us Your Holy Word that we might learn and believe the message of salvation that comes to us through Christ our Savior. Grant that we might always cling to Your Word as the Word of truth. Grant us also the strength of faith to trust only in You, believing and trusting not what the world teaches, but believing and trusting Your life-giving Word.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.