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Brothers

July 19, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

brothersProper 10/A [Pent. 7] (07/16/2023): Ps. 65; Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

BROTHERS

So, then, brothers … all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God … and if children … fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (vv. 12a, 14, 17).

St. Paul employs the language of family; and so, we are. Today, Jesus teaches in parables, the purpose of which is revelation of his kingdom to disciples; but restraining understanding from the unbelieving crowds (Mt. 13:13, 14). Jesus does not chase after converts; the Father draws and reveals Jesus to whom he wills (16:17; Jn. 6:44).

Jesus makes clear, God’s family has nothing to do with physical lineage; everything to do with those who believe, hear, and understand his reign, distinguished from the uncommitted to his word.

Earlier, Jesus’ mother and half-brothers sought him in a house where he was teaching. Jesus responded, pointing to his disciples, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 12:49).

Pretty rough treatment of Mary, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. Being a member in “good-standing” of a family depends on children who do parental will; in the case of heaven’s family, doing the will of the Father that we believe his Son whom he sent (17:5b). Hearing, believing, and understanding is what St. Luke calls “doing the word” (Lk. 8:21); it is the bond of heaven’s family.

Jesus’ half-brothers were as yet unbelievers, and on some level even Mary failed to comprehend his words. In the face of unbelief Jesus began to teach his kingdom reign in parables, at once confounding the curious merely attracted to miracles; while at the same time, revealing the substance of his kingdom advance to believers.

Does this seem a strange mission strategy? It is certainly not today’s model for “Church Growth” for pastors and congregations hoping to produce 100, 60, or 30-fold in the size of their communities. So, we engage Jesus’ Parable of the Sower.

Jesus, word of God sows the world. He is its content; Word-Seed. Jesus is not mere message; he is God’s sown Word as the Crucified power of God for the sin of the world.

Later Jesus would clarify his parable, referencing the cross, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn. 12:23, 24). Jesus is worker of fruit and yield.

As divine Seed, the crucified Son of Man waters the earth from his own body; water and blood for his church. Thus, Isaiah’s prophesy of Christ and HS, “For as the rain … come[s] down from heaven … giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my Word … not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose …” (55:10, 11).

Water and Word, Spirit and Seed, God’s planting of his church for fruit in the world by his Son’s body; is the source of all increase for would-be eaters of heavenly Bread.

The Sower parable teaches, only one of the four soils produce fruit. This is a mystery; the work of Seed and Water, Word and HS alone create “good soil”. One might think, as a matter of economy, Jesus would sow or broadcast on only “good soil”; instead, he lavishes his word for salvation on all the earth, calling all to Baptism to share his glory before God.

Jesus seeds the hardpan; it is immediately snatched-away by Satan. Those grounded in the rocky soil of apostacy counter grace alone. And those conflicted in the things of this world’s affairs are opposed to humble submission and trust in God alone.

Whether the doubting/rejecting soils represent 3/4ths of the world or some other fraction, all three types have in common a preference for another family than the one the Father draws for his own. Of our heirship St. Paul qualifies, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17b).

The Christian family is known, not on account of human “love”; our affection toward others; but in faith’s suffering that mirrors God’s Suffering Servant for love of the Father and his gathered brothers and sisters. God intends abiding in hearts implanted by the Seed of word and sacrament within brothers and sisters for mutual support and consolation.

In this, the synagogue of Christ, Sower and Seed does the ongoing agrarian work of scoring and hardening hearts until we bleed for shame in repentance; our blood mixing with his poured-out into the earth. We hear the truth of our sins and acknowledge our contrary preferences for the family of men that inclines us to elevate our own flesh, rather than sacrificial love of brother and sister.

This is the work of God’s seed, germinating in you from your Baptism. Not everyone desires adoption into a family headed by the Father willing each in his children to inherit the same glory suffered by his Son.

Some prefer Moses, the letter apart from the killing Spirit and Truth (2 Cor. 3:6). Others enthusiastically receive Jesus’ word, but when tribulations arrive fall away altogether or to “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit and gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4), perhaps finding the church’s catechism too arduous or time consuming. Some bargain with the gods of this world that vie for attention, not the least of which is an obsession over monetary concerns and the demands of human families and associations.

What then is the meaning of Jesus’ promise that those who hear his word in understanding will yield fruit of 100, 60, and 30-fold? Certainly, we are saved to “good-works”, but not primarily. Rather, gospel produce in tribulation is for the increase of God’s seed, in whom we abide; who says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Jesus is the Sabbath fulfillment; our rest, our fruit and yield, have little, if at all, to do with “Church Growth” outcomes; rather it the Church’s multiplication of “spiritual poverty” to which we are blessed in Christ (5:3); hearts being made “new” by God’s word that obtains blessing in “possessing the kingdom of heaven”.

By the Spirit’s leading, we hear and understand the kingdom come near (11:29, 30), sons and daughters desiring only the will of our Father in brotherhood with Christ. Amen.

pem