By: Rev. Lew Stier, Associate Pastor of Outreach
WORDS—they are how we communicate. WORDS—they have specific meaning when they reach the ear and are transferred to the brain. WORDS—they relay information—they give instructions—they offer encouragement—they give voice to disapproval—the elicit laughter—they cause tears to flow. These are just some of the many purposes for WORDS.
Modern song writer Hawk Nelson wrote this about WORDS: Words can make you feel like a criminal or a king; like a prisoner or set you free. Words can build you up; words can break you down; start a fire in your heart or put it out.
Ultimately, WORDS need to be understandable, or there is no point in using them. They really do not accomplish what they intend to accomplish if someone does not understand what you have to say. But sometimes WORDS are very meaningful; they say what is right, they are spoken correctly and yet they cannot be comprehended by a mind or heart because they are not predisposed to hearing them.
Jesus knew this to be true. After speaking the parable of the Sower and the Seed he commented in his explanation: “When someone hears the word about the kingdom [of God} and does not understand them, well bad things happen” (Matthew 13:19 my paraphrase).
Join me as we look at this parable with our eyes, ears, and hearts focused on the Lenten journey of Lord and Savior Jesus.
As the church year progresses so rapidly (we just celebrated Jesus’ birth) we now turn our focus to the events of Lent leading up to the death of Jesus on Good Friday and his three day rest in a sealed tomb.
The idea of Lent usually means we have to “give something up” for this 40-day period. It is a sacrificial effort to remind us of all Jesus had to give up for our redemption. He had to suffer enormously and die a horrible death in this life just so we would not have to endure the awful wrath of God the Father on the day we stand before Him in judgment for the next life.
But the fact is—we could not understand those WORDS without being predisposed to hearing them. That means our minds — and so much more our hearts — have to be softened; they have to be cultivated and prepared by the Holy Spirit so they become like fertile soil accepting the seed sown with the intent on growing prosperous food.
So along with the idea of giving something up out of reverence for Jesus we are also talking about receiving something each week of Lent this year. We are embarking on a journey through six weeks of some of the Parables of Jesus. Each week has a receiving theme. This first week of Lent covers the Parable of the Sower and the theme is Receive the Word.
There are many differing conditions of the hearts of men out there. The parable relates those heart conditions to the varying types of surfaces present when a farmer sows the seeds of the crop he intends to harvest. Some surfaces are not predisposed to receiving seed and certainly cannot sustain any growth or very little growth. While other surfaces, such as a well-cultivated and fertilized field of dirt, will produce a bountiful harvest in due time.
The Gospel message of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is the Word we cast today as seed to grow into the heart of faith. But it will not always accomplish what we intend for that Word to do. Not because the Word is ineffective—no, there is nothing wrong with God—His Word will never return totally void of any fruit of faith. When the Word does not grow in the hearts of men, it is the heart of man that is wrong.
It is like corn seed that falls on cement pavement—the hardest surface around serving as ground. There is no way that seed can grow. You can water it all you want and it will just lay there and do nothing. It may serve as a kernel of food for some birds or animals, but it will never produce an ear of corn. Other types of surfaces are a little more relenting, like rock and dirt combined or a field of weeds. The seed may find some way to germinate and even produce a short plant. But the sun will come out and dry it up or the weeds will grow stronger and choke the plant fighting for a limited supply of nutrients.
Unfortunately, the Word of the Gospel experiences the same thing. Some people have hearts that are as solid as cement. The Word of the Gospel falls on them, but the surface repels the seed. Others are a little bit softer, but contain no nutrients and good growing soil, so faith sprouts but has a very short life.
But through the work of the Holy Spirit softening hearts; turning hearts away from self and toward our Father in Heaven, the Gospel message is received and it grows into a full blossom of faith according to the gifts given and received from God.
What is the condition of the soil of your heart today? Do you hear and receive the Word and know for certain Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior now and forever?