Planted by the Word and Produce Fruit
These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
How do you get people to join your church? There are lots of suggestions. Most people suggest something special for every age group. It seems that you need to provide people with all kinds of programs. You also need to tell people what they want to hear. You may get people to join your church that way, but chances are they won’t ever become a part of the holy Christian church. You only become a member of God’s kingdom one way: through the preaching of the gospel. But even the success of our gospel preaching doesn’t depend on us. Instead, it depends entirely upon God’s power and blessing.
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”?
He means that there is never a “neutral” hearing of his Word. God’s Word either produces and strengthens faith in the hearts of his hearers, or it serves to harden those hearts. Even Jesus’ disciples—although still believers—were sometimes hardened to the truth of God’s Word when they refused to believe certain things (cf. Mk 6:52; Mk 8:17).
Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 55:10-13
The supplemental lesson adds two verses to the First Lesson to let the worshiper see the purpose God had in sending forth his Word (55:11). 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 by the 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, 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.
Gospel – Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
What is a parable?
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus told many simple parables to the people of his day, using everyday events to help people understand the kingdom of God.
What is Jesus’ point in the parable of the sower?
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. Jesus 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.