120624 Pastor Schultz-Farewell Sermon

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Do you remember the nursery rhyme, "Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids, all in a row"? It sounds like a lovely child's poem, but when it was written in the late 1500's it was a cryptic satire for Mary queen of England, the queen they called bloody Mary. She was a staunch catholic, trying to re-establish Catholicism in England by force and fear. Her garden in the poem refers to the gravestones of those she executed for daring to hold on to the Protestant faith.

What does this have to do with our lesson?  Jesus tells a parable about a garden and the seeds sown in it. He describes the real way His kingdom grows - not by force, like Mary and others before and after her have tried. It grows not by political pressure, nor by worldly attraction, nor by psychological gimmicks. "Jesus, Savior, Son of God, how does your garden grow?"  Let's find out.

"This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground" (v. 26). Most Jews in Jesus' day looked for the Kingdom of God to come with military might – like the great kingdoms of the past when David and Solomon ruled. Jesus, however, taught, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36). "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21). God's kingdom is His ruling activity in the hearts of believers through His Word. It extends throughout the world wherever the Holy Spirit changes unbelievers into Christians by the good news message of Jesus.

In Christ's parable the seed is the Word of God. Peter writes, "You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). Sowing the seed means to proclaim the Word. Christ has given His church this mission and none other. A gardener must carefully and faithfully plant the seed if he expects a harvest, but the power to produce the harvest is in the seed, not in the person planting it. God expects us to faithfully sow the seed of His Word but the power to produce faith is in the Word, not in the person planting it. Jesus says, "Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how" (v. 27, 28). His apostle Paul wrote, "The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes it" (Romans 1:16). We faithfully sow the Word by preaching sermons, singing hymns, teaching Bible classes, instructing children, reading our devotions, training and sending missionaries, and telling friends about Jesus. Indeed, this is hard work. We labor in the Lord as Christ love compels us. And think of it – you and I are instruments of the Holy Spirit who works through the Word to grow Christ's kingdom by building up the faith of others.

Do you ever think that it's your job to convince people to believe or to make them logically conclude they must believe? Do you wish the church had a bigger impact in the community through social programs or political involvement? Of course, we want everyone to believe in Jesus. We want to help those in need. We want to be faithful Christian citizens. But what is the work Christ has given us? Sow the seed. Only the Holy Spirit can convince people they are sinners who need the Savior. We don't take credit when we see the kingdom growing through our efforts, nor should we be discouraged when we don't see the kingdom growing the way we want. Be patient. Keep sowing the seed. We don't know what growth might occur or when, but we do know when we are proclaiming the Word, the Holy Spirit is working on people's hearts.

How dreadful to be in the devil's kingdom, ruled by greed, lust, envy, and hatred, dreading death and living forever in darkness! Thank God He brought you into His kingdom. Thank God He now nurtures your faith by Word and Sacrament. Why do we sometimes feel like we're still in the devil's rule?  We still have a sinful nature. We're still living in a sinful world with evil influences. Satan knows just which buttons to push, probing for our weakness and taking advantage of us. Christ's Law warns, "Look at your sin! Look how in your pride you take Gods Word for granted and rely on yourself to stay in the kingdom or make it grow!" By the gospel He comforts, "I took full responsibility for all your sin. I took away its curse when I suffered and died!" When the flesh and the world try to lead us astray, our faith answers, "I will live for Christ my King, who loves me and gave Himself for me!" When Satan tries to accuse us of being miserable failures, our faith answers, "God has forgiven me for Jesus' sake!" So we ask, "Jesus, Savior, Son of God, how does your garden grow?"  By the Spirit's power through the seed of the Word!

Jesus tells a second parable, "The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed" (v. 31). It is so very tiny, but the mustard plant can reach 10 to 15 feet high. Christ's kingdom appears so insignificant. He grew up in a lowly, despised province. He taught for only 3 years in small villages, with an occasional trip to the capital city Jerusalem. He made a few converts, mainly among the poor and unlearned. He then fell into the hands of His enemies, and died a shameful death. He rose from the dead and rather than appearing in glory to stun and frighten people into his kingdom, He returned to heaven. He didn't raise an army or start a political movement. He poured out His Spirit on 12 men to inspire their preaching and writing. "Preach the gospel to all creation," He commissioned.

Sound foolish? Seem unimpressive? Words spoken by a preacher with trembling lips, a little water splashed on a baby's head, a piece of bread and a sip of wine backed by the power of God's Word and His kingdom grows. By these means you believe in Jesus. Your sins are forgiven. You can serve in God's kingdom. You can be content and joyful, no matter what. The King is in control. You can face life and death with confidence, for the Lord will rescue you from every evil attack and deliver you safely into His eternal kingdom. And who needs to fear the end of the world when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!

So what are you going to do with the rest of your life? How will you make decisions that affect the direction of your life? Sow the seed. Some may ridicule you. Some may try to stop you. But still the kingdom grows. Sow the seed through worship, Bible study, home devotions, personal witnessing, supporting our congregation's church and school ministry, and supporting our synod's efforts to train workers and send them to sow the seed where we cannot go.

We ministers are called by the Lord to serve in various places, one after another in a row going all the way back to Jesus, our ascended Lord who gives some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-12). Cheryl and I are thankful He called me to be one of those ministers in the row He is sending to plant the seed here with you. We will keep you in our prayers, thanking God for you and asking God to bless you forever. Pray also for us that God will bless us and bless others through the seed we sow wherever God calls in our time of grace on earth. It's a different plot of soil for now, but it is the same garden, Christ's garden. And when sowing time is done and Christ returns, He will gather us all into His perfect harvest in heaven. So we end with a rhyme, not a nursery rhyme, but a rhyme based on child-like faith: "Jesus, Savior, Son of God, how does your garden grow?"   By the Spirit's power through the seed of the Word and through ministers, all in a row.  Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

Worship Schedule

Sunday
8:00 A.M. & 10:30 A.M.

9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

Monday at 7:00 P.M.

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Sunday at 10:00 A.M.
on Charter Cable Station 985

 

St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
262-912-6060

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