Pentecost 4, 2024

Christ tells me this week that the Word which is cast grows “automate” or in English, automatically. There is Law and Gospel in that single word for me as a preacher. I want a little credit here. I like to think that eloquence, programming, or skill or some sort is what causes this thing to work. When it doe work, I am more than a little proud of that. But this seed grows automatically, of itself. I used to walk up to sliding doors that opened with a sensor and impress my children by saying “Open Sesame” or some such foolishness. But that turned to eye rolls when they were about 4 and figured out that dad was just pulling their leg. Am I doing a grown up version of the same whenever God’s kingdom succeeds and I take credit for it?

But there is also Gospel in here and perhaps a particular Gospel for the days in which we find ourselves. The Church in North America is in a decline, a rather steep and precipitous decline. There are places where faith flourishes and congregations which are full on Sunday mornings. But there are many whose cavernous buildings once hosted hundreds on a Sunday morning but now see a couple dozen. They gamely sing their hymns in a space designed for 10 times their numbers. I serve one of those places. It can be oppressive. God’s word, His kingdom grows automatically, of itself. If it is not growing, that is on him.

It is true that I can be an efficient cause of that growth either way. I can get in the way of growth with my neglect, petulance, greed, or some such sin. But God is the one who gives the growth. I can also facilitate growth by being an instrument which God uses, but I cannot claim that growth. God’s kingdom grows all of itself.

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