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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 24, 2017

The Christian is Planted by the Word and Produces Fruit

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Sunday is summarized in the Prayer of the Day which thanks God for the implanting of the Word and asks for the Spirit’s help in producing fruits of faith.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 55:10-11

True or false: Whenever we proclaim God’s Word, we can be certain that our listeners will be brought to faith.

False. The gospel does not automatically produce faith. When we use the gospel, we hope and pray that this will be the outcome, but sadly there are many who reject the forgiveness that God offers in his Word and harden their hearts to its truths, as Isaiah experienced in his own ministry (cf. Isaiah 6:9,10).

What does God mean that his Word “never returns to him empty”?

Though many seeds fall among soil that does not produce fruit, Isaiah gives us God’s promise that his Word will never return to him fruitless. The Word is like the rain and snow sent from God in heaven that fall to bring blessing upon the earth and make it fruitful. Just as precipitation makes the earth bud and flourish, so God’s Word will always do its work of planting faith in the heart of man and making it fruitful. While this verse is often used to illustrate that God’s Word always works, either to convert or to harden, the flavor of this passage and its context is decidedly positive. Faithful preachers are the mouth of God (Jeremiah 15:19) from which the Word goes forth to do its work of planting faith and making it bear much fruit in the heart of man.

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 55:10-13

The supplemental lesson adds two verses to the First Lesson to let the worshipper see the purpose God had in sending forth his Word (v 11). God sends his Word out for our joy and for the LORD’s renown. Intermediately fulfilled in the return from Babylon, God’s promise is ultimately fulfilled in the Holy Christian Church. The Word goes forth to plant faith for the glory of God and the salvation of man.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 8:18-25

What is God’s creation awaiting?

The return of the Lord when it will be freed from the bondage of decay. In other words, things die and corrode in this world because of our sinfulness.

What are we eagerly awaiting?

We await our adoption as children of God, when our broken-down and decaying bodies will be replaced with a body like the one Jesus received in his resurrection (cf. Philippians 3:21).

Why do we need to be patient?

We need to be patient because Jesus’ return won’t take place until all those who were elected to faith from eternity are brought to faith bythe powerful Word of God. We don’t know when that will be, so we need to be patient.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 18:1-11

The field of Corinth was filled with birds and stones and thorns. Though Paul reasoned and preached, one seed after another fell on soil that did not produce a crop. Yet God’s Word would accomplish his good purpose. Paul did not have to go far to find a fertile field. He walked out of the synagogue and went right next door. In the home of Titius Justus he found good soil that produced a crop one hundred times that which was sown.

Preach you the Word and plant it home
To those who like or like it not,
The Word that shall endure and stand
When flow’rs and mortals are forgot.

Though some be snatched and some be scorched
And some be choked and matted flat,
The sower sows; his heart cries out,
“Oh what of that, and what of that?”

Preach you the Word and plant it home
And never faint; the Harvest-Lord
Who gave the sower seed to sow
Will watch and tend his planted Word

Martin Franzmann (Christian Worship: 544)

Gospel – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

What a description of Jesus’ ministry! What a description of ours! The Sower scatters the seed of the Gospel to all with no regard for where it might land. Yet most of his seed bears no fruit. This parable brings warning and such comfort. Christ warns us that the seed of the Word faces great opposition from sin, Satan, and the world. Newborn faith can be choked or scorched. The Gospel promise can be snatched from apathetic or misunderstanding soil. Though we sow the seed faithfully and generously, Jesus warns us that most of it will never bear fruit that lasts. Yet for every faithful Gospel preacher, Christ comforts us by showing that the preacher’s job is to sow the seed and leave the growing up to God. He comforts us by pointing to what his Word does in the good soil: it plants great faith that does great things. In the man who hears and understands it, the simple sowing of the Word will produce a crop—a hundred, sixty, or thirty-fold.

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