Sowing in a Time of Drought

My sermon from this morning. Based on the parable of the sower.

It doesn’t matter how carefully the seed is planted.  A farmer could carefully dig a hole to plant each seed individually. Take the time to lovingly place the seed in the small hole. Carefully cover it. If there is no water, it will not grow.  It will stay a seed. 

It matters not how much a rancher loves his cattle, if there is no food to feed them.  Atheism is all well and good for the academic, sitting in the ivory tower, buying food at the local grocery store.  For the farmer who puts his blood, sweat and tears into the planting the crop, who puts his entire future into the ground, and then must wait and see, to deny the existence of the almighty is pure foolishness.  That’s why scripture says the fool says in his heart there is no God. Not for the high powered executive who sits in the city well insulated from the shocks of everyday life. But for the farmer and rancher, who must trust that God will provide. It doesn’t need to be the true God.  IN Greek mythology, Demeter, Hemes, or Pan were responsible for various parts of agriculture.  The Romans looked to Ceres, The Norse to Frey. There is very little difference. If you put your whole livelihood into the ground and then have to hope that it rains at the right time, it’s dry and warm at the right time, it gets more rain at the right time, and then finally the fields can be harvested when the crop is ripe, you are going to pray to someone.  Irrigation has changed the timetable a little, but we still need the snow. And even with modern wells, we still need the aquifer.  Even the power plant needs water to work. And that water had to come from the heavens.

Atheism is ok in the cities. But for those who make the things that make the busy and bustling city life possible, atheism is a fools idea. Of course, we would add that Hermes and Demeter and Frey are false gods on man’s devising. Obviously, they can not really help at all. But there must be something there.

We have been given a great opportunity once again. The opportunity to recognize that God is the giver of every gift. That we can not make it without his providing hand. That unless he gives the growth, our efforts are futile. That we can plant all we want, we can build, we can electrify, we can do all sorts of great things. But what we can not do is keep it all going, if he doesn’t provide. The Psalmist proclaims, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Every morning the sun rises because He set it there in the heavens to do so. Every day the air is there for you to breathe because he put it there for you to breathe. Every day food is eaten because he has provide bounteously.  If he were to stop, then there would be no food, no sun not even the air to breathe. It would all dissipate in an instant.

But Jesus parable really isn’t about farming, is it. It is about the kingdom of God. And the same rules apply. You can plant all you want, you can spread the seed of the word wildly, madly around you. You can carefully cultivate each seed. It does not matter if God does not give growth. And there is some that will grow, but not produce fruit. There is nothing you can do about it.

God gives faithful pastors to preach, to bring that word to you. But unless God gives the growth, you will produce no fruit. It does not help that we live in a culture that is quickly abandoning the Word of God. God never promises that his word will continue to produce fruit forever in the same spot. His word will continue forever, and that word has the power of God behind it. But the Holy Spirit nowhere promises to continue to bring faith where that word is preached. History is full of examples of peoples that got lazy in God’s word, that just assumed that because they were whatever, that God’s word was there eternal heritage, and could never be taken from them. The Jews in Jesus day, the city of Byzantium, of Alexandria, of Antioch – all Christian once upon a time – the Great city of Rome, once the center of the Christian faith in the west, the Lands of Luther, England, France – now almost totally secular. The people assumed that the word of God was theirs by right, and now it is gone. Our own nation now goes through this same thing. We treat the Word of God with such disrespect, it is amazing that God has let us endure this long. And it is not just the surrounding culture while we sit here innocently and faithfully devoted to his word. You know that’s not how it works, because you know the sin that creeps in. Yes the world entices, but your sinful flesh is enticed.  Satan tempts, but your sinful nature is tempted. And despite the blessings of your baptism, you wander.

There is faithlessness, There is doubt. Trust in God above all things. Easy to say. Impossible to accomplish when there is the economy, and the checkbook balance, and the health problems and the strife in the family. It’s just too easy to sin, and too hard to trust.

And then the other side of it: When trust in God fails, love of your neighbor isn’t far behind. Whether it is an overt act of hatred, or simply the failure to treat them as you would want God to treat you. It’s easy to sin, easy to fall away into great shame and vice. Easy to ignore God’s command to love him and love your neighbor. And then to assume that its ok because you had really good reasons, you are part of this congregation that so carefully teaches the truth that it doesn’t matter what you do, God will forgive.

And then we pretend to be shocked when we look around and see God’s Holy Spirit moving on to other places, watering the seeds in other areas. After our sin, our lovelessness, it’s a surprise that he stayed this long. The drought is a call to repent. It is a reminder that God’s spirit will not contend with man forever. That if we continue to walk away from him, that he may depart from us. The drought stands like John the Baptist and cries out repent turn from your evil ways and live – if only we would hear.

What shall we do, what shall we eat what shall we wear? Let us trust that God will provide, even when it doesn’t look at all like that will happen.  Let us help our neighbor in need, even when it seems as if we don’t have the resources to do so, even when its one of those neighbors that we don’t want to help.

Return to the Lord. Drown the old Adam each day by hearing the word of God, by repentance and prayer, and let the new man arise to live before god in righteousness and purity forever. And yes, you will struggle. But you can not do it on your own – it must by the Word of God and prayer. For that is the only defense you have against the temptations of the devil, the enticements of the world, and the weakness of your own flesh. Repent, hear the Word of God.  Turn to your savior, who gave his life for you. Turn to Jesus and live.

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