Summary: A Sermon for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time(A) "As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit" Matthew 13:23
let me ask a question of all you who are here today—What did you come expecting here to hear?
In a fascinating story of his journey across the United States with his pet dog, John Steinbeck tells of a Church service he attended during his travels in the State of Vermont. Tongue in cheek, he says,
“The preacher spoke of Hell as an expert. Not the mush-mush Hell of these soft days, but a white-hot Hell served by technicians of the first order. This reverend brought us to a point where we could really understand it: a good hard-coal fire, plenty of draft, and a squad of devils who put their heart into their work -- and their work was me.
I began to feel good all over ... this Vermont God cared enough about me to put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and nasty and best forgotten, this preacher gave my sins some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn’t been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension there was some pride left. I wasn’t the naughty child after all, but a first rate sinner ... I felt so revived by this sermon that I put $5.00 in the collection plate.
And afterward, out in front of the Church, I shook hands warmly with the preacher and as many of the congregation as I could. It gave me a lovely sense of evil-doing that lasted clear through till Tuesday.
I have no doubt that each one of us can identify to a certain extent with Steinbeck’s Vermont experience -- especially the part about the impact of the Sunday Sermon lasting "clear through till Tuesday" –if that long.
Week-after-week you come here to Oakton Church to celebrate the Good News of a gracious God who loves us so much that he wants us to have complete life. You have come today as you do each Sunday to celebrate the Good News of a God of Resurrection Power who transforms sickness into health, sorrow into joy, death into life.
You are to celebrate the Good News of a caring God who has become one of us to tell us that he loves you and who shows us how to love Him through our love for one another. Week-after-week we celebrate and affirm our faith in this Good News. Week-after-week we renew our trust in God’s promise to bring the fulfillment of the Kingdom in our midst.
But it’s not enough. If we want to be Christ’s women and men, we have a purpose in life to fulfill, and not just clear through next Tuesday, but clear through the rest of our lives.
A little girl sat at her grandmother’s feet to listen to the creation story from the Book of Genesis. As the wondrous tale unfolded, the grandmother noticed that the child was unusually quiet.
"Well, what do you think of it, dear?" she asked. "Oh, I love it," the child answered, "you never know what God is going to do next."
That little girl was making a profound distinction between our preconceived notions of who God is and what the Spirit does, and who God really is and what God’s Spirit is really doing.
It is the difference between being a passive listener to the revealed Word and an actual hearer of the revealed Word.
It is the difference between some vague, general understanding that God has spoken, and an abiding conviction that God is speaking -- right now, and to me!
Could that be the point of today’s Gospel story of the sower? Jesus begins by stating the obvious: seed sown in good, fertile soil will be more productive than seed sown on barren ground or rocky ground or ground that is full of thistles and weeds. The Lesson of the parable begins to emerge when Jesus likens the seed to the Word of God and the ground in which it is sown to the people to whom the Word is addressed.
The Word will flower and bear fruit only on the good ground, only on soil that is properly conditioned to receive it. That is why it is important to learn to expect the unexpected from the good and gracious God. Learn to share in the delight of the little girl who said she loved the creation story because "You never know what God is going to do next!"
How do you hear the voice of God, that still small voice that speaks within you? Are truly listening? Are you searching and seeking for God’s vision for your life. "Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear," Jesus says to his disciples in today’s Lesson.
"Come with Me," Jesus says, "and I will bring you into the light, bring you back to the city of God where you will experience wholeness of life." Jesus is ready, willing and able to transport you to the Kingdom of God. We have His word for it. But are you and I listening? We do you really expect to hear when you come to this place week after week? Are allowing the Word that is proclaimed to you every Sunday to take root deep within your being, where it can bear fruit a hundred fold? Are you really ready to "do whatever he tells you?"