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February 18, 2017 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Topic: Sexagesima (60th day before Easter)

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Sexagesima Sunday
Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
Rev. George Fyler, Pastor Emeritus

"To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10)

Dear Beloved of the LORD,

St. Peter write to the baptized believers “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; … And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”(1Pe 1:23, 25) Therefore, what we learn from the Parable of the Sower is that living our life as baptized children of God depends upon the Word of God, that is, Jesus Christ who is Himself theWord-made-Flesh. Without the sowing, i.e., the preaching of this Word of Christ, there is no Christianity; there is no true faith, no true worship, no true discipleship, no forgiveness of sins, no real life and no salvation. The preaching of the Word ofChrist and the Holy Sacraments(which are the Word made visible) are your true and only spiritual food. These alone are your sustenance, your every breath, and your only hope for the future. In short, it is yourentire Christian faith and life, period!

Here then (from this pulpit) that Seed, the Word of God, is even now being sown among you by the Sower, who is none other than your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have been given ears to hear, then hear what Jesus says to you. Receive His Word into your heart, and keep it always close at hand. For that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus having “ears to hear.”(vs. 8)

It is precisely by this preaching of His Word that Jesus Christ gathers people to Himself and calls them to discipleship. And it is to His disciples that Jesus explains the Parables and reveals the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which cannot be known otherwise.
Now, understand that "discipleship" and "catechesis" are simply two aspects of the same way of life in Christ. Discipleship and catechesis is a daily, ongoing, life long activity with and by the Word of Christ. It is rooted in His Holy Sacraments. The Seed is planted in your heart by the preaching of His Word; it is watered unto life everlasting in Holy Baptism; it is pruned and cultivated, (and your soil is weeded) by the confession of your sins and by Holy Absolution. And the growing plant isnurtured and fed by the Body and Blood of the Word-made-Flesh in the Holy Eucharist. It is by these means of grace that fruit is produced a hundredfold.

This Christian way of life in the Word and Sacraments of Christ is not optional, but necessary toknow, to understand and to practice often and regularly. Only thus do you "know" the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which is to say, not simply to have certain facts of theology in your head, but to havea living relationship with God in Christ, and to participate personally in those Mysteries of His Kingdom, by grace through faith.
These Mysteries of the Kingdom originate first and foremost in Christ Himself, the incarnate Son of God, in His Cross and Resurrection. Butthese Mysteries are made known to you — given to you, andshared — in HolyBaptism, the forgiveness of yoursins, and the Body and Blood of Christ. Each of these derives from and participates in His Incarnation, His Cross and Resurrection. Through these means of grace, you take root, sprout and grow into mature discipleship.

Unfortunately, every Christian is hindered by the devil, by the world, and by his own sinful flesh, which conspire together to separate the Word from the Christian's ears, heart, and life.For they aim to prevent you from the final resurrection ofyour body from the dust of the earth and they will stop at nothing to destroy you.

Now, let us think about these things more concretely, in the context of our life within the Church. We are approaching Easter: within sixty days of those most sacred and life-giving Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which are the Cross andResurrection of our Lord. Shortly, therefore, the season of Lent will begin, to prepare you for those life-giving Mysteries. But the question is, will you hear that Word of God and keep it? Will you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it? Will you hungrily consume every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God? Or will you despise God's Word and the preaching of it? Are you truly glad whenever it is said to you, "let us go to the house of the Lord"?(Ps. 122:1)
It is fine that you are sitting here this day. Is the Seed penetrating your ears and into your heart? Are you really hearing this Word of Christ, or is your mind focused elsewhere? Are you eager for this Word of Christ, or must you constantly fight the temptation to glance at your watch?

Do you eagerly seize every opportunity to be planted with the Seed that is sown here in this sanctuary and at this altar? Do you consider a Sunday morning brunch to be more enjoyable and more nutritious than Bible class?

Do you bother to give attention to the Word of God each day through out theweek? And will you be here faithfully for Divine Services, for Lenten prayer services and for the services of Holy Week? And if so, will you be glad that you are here? Will you rejoice at that privilege to hear the Word of God? Or will it be a chore, a duty, a burden, an obligation, for the sake of appearances, or simply a habit?

How often do you now stop to consider your Holy Baptism and what it means and provides for your entire life? And how often do you practicewhat the Catechism has taught you, that is, to consider your place in life and to examine yourself according to the Ten Commandments, and then, on that basis, to confess all for the sake of hearing and receiving that most precious Word of Christ: His Word of HolyAbsolution.
The fact is, each and every Word of Christ is so precious — and so vital to your Christian faith, life and salvation — that you should scramble for every Seed of it that you can possibly hear and receive. There ought to be none of that Seed wasted! But thedevil knows better than you do how essential that Seed is; because he knows that without the Word of Christ you are not able to believe, and you will not be saved. The devil and his fowls are more zealous in snatching that Seed away from you, than you are in hearing it and taking itto heart.

Shame on you! Shame on us all! As Dr. Luther chastised the people ofGermany in his day, the Lord ought to send a famine of His Word upon us, andtake it away from us completely, because our ingratitude and lack ofattention to it. But thanks be to God, for He has not taken His Word away from us! No, the Sower continues to sow His Seed; and He is so generous that He sows the Seed even where it would seem to have no chance whatsoever of growing. Which is to say that He is so reckless — and so gracious — as to preach His Word even to you!

And that's not all! Because the Word that is preached to you by Christ the Sower is chiefly His Word of the Gospel: His forgiveness of all your sin, whereby He also changes your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. By its own mysterious power (which is the powerof the Cross and Resurrection of Christ), this Seedcan plant itself within you, and convert your trampled, rocky, weed-infested heart into a noble and good heart.

Do you see, and do you hear and understand? It is not the soil, but the Seed, the Word itself, which grows and produces fruit. The key to the good soil, and the key to its fruitfulness, is entirely in the hearing and keeping of that fruitful Word.

The only means whereby the enemies of the Word are overcome is the continual hearing of the Word, because the Word itself is the only remedy for all that stands against it.It is a sure and certain remedy, because it is a sure and certain Word. “My Word, which goeth forth out of My mouth, shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in thething whereto I sent it."(Isa. 55:11) As He has spoken, so has He done, according to His good and gracious Will. For He has indeed called you to Himself, by the persistent preaching of His Word (by the sowing of His Seed); and He has thereby made you His disciple; and He has made known to you the truth, even the Mysteries of His own divine Kingdom.

He has not only caused you to hear His Word, but He has also enabled you to"keep it." Keeping it means not obedience (as to some rule orcommand) but receiving and trusting (as to a gift and a promise).

So, under every circumstance, take heart that all depends upon the unfailing Word of Christ: not upon you; nor your own goodness,which is nothing; nor your sincerity, resolve, efforts or striving, none of which produce anything other than more sinfulness. But all depends upon the Word of Christ, which will not fail to accomplish thepurpose for which He has spoken it.

By His Word, He has made known to you the Mysteries of His Kingdom, which He also bestows upon you (and shares with you), here and now, through and with HisWord, in His Own Body and Blood, which are indeed the first fruits of HisHoly Gospel. AMEN