The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 8:5-15
In today’s reading we are given the privilege of hearing the parable of the sower from the lips of the Lord and savior Jesus. We have heard these words many times throughout our lives and today they are given to us as we remember the teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical council. This council of many bishops of the Christian Church met together in the great city of Nicaea in 787 ad to discuss the controversies surrounding the use of holy icons in the churches. The practice of using icons had been outlawed by certain bishops with the support of the emperor Leo III beginning around the year 726 ad.
What does this council have to do with the parable of the sower? Not much at first glance but look more closely and you will see that the parable is all about what we do with the seed of the Lord which is the word of God. Some accept it joyfully but only for a time. Some accept but the worries of the world choke it out and it loses its ability to thrive. Some accept the word of God in shallow rocky soil and it is snatched away quickly.
This parable is given to us today to remind us that the parable is not simply a metaphor for the human heart. It is also symbolic of the faithfulness of the Church on Earth. In this regard the only truly good soil in the world is here in the Church where we have joyfully accepted the teachings of Christ and His apostles and saints. It is here in this good soil that the teachings of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church have not changed due to financial pressures or due to the cares of other peoples opinions. It is only here in the whole world were we can find the Church truly bearing fruit with patience. The fruit of the Church is the thriving life of the Holy Spirit shown through the teachings and lives of the people of God.
When you come here on Sunday morning it is possible that you forget just how blessed you really are. Coming to this place can become a not-so-sacred routine. Of all the churches in the area, you are privileged to attend the one Church that has faithfully maintained the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles unchanged throughout history. There are many churches where people love Jesus Christ. Rare are the churches that have kept the faith fully with no changes, additions or alterations.
Why is this so important? Because we believe that the Son of God actually became a man and taught us the ways of salvation. We believe that the proper practice of the whole faith can change lives. Imagine receiving a set of directions that led to treasure. Now imagine that some of the crucial steps are missing from the directions. It is possible that you might get close to the goal, but only those who have the full set of directions can get to the exact destination. Or we could say that the ones with the exact directions can get there more easily, with less detours.
For Christians this treasure is not a thing, it is a person. The Lord Jesus Christ is our treasure. Getting to God involves more than wishful thinking. It involves obedience to all of the teachings of Christ and not simply the ones that are convenient or fit neatly into my personal reading of the Bible or my flawed opinions. Because the Church loves Christ as a bride loves her husband, She finds the teachings of Christ to be sweet and light. She holds them close to her heart and never even thinks to deviate from them. She recognizes that even the teachings of the Lord are part of His grace. They are a gift given freely out of intense love for us.
So the fact that we pray with icons surrounding us may look insignificant but it is not. It reminds us that until Jesus Christ took flesh and became man, God had never been seen. It reminds us that as St. Paul says “Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” God in fact made an icon of Himself. It reminds us that the material world has been redeemed by the coming of Christ. It reminds us that nearly every Christian archaeological site ever found has shown Christian symbols and icons, even in the first century. It reminds us that the Church fathers knew the Bible (and they understood it much better than we do). It reminds us that the fathers of the Church did not look at icons as objects to be worshiped like idols but as windows to heaven.
Last but not least the fact that you entered the church this morning and see icons is a reminder that the Church is a faithful bride. It reminds us that good soil still exists and brings forth fruit patiently from year to year and generation to generation…..And Glory be to God Forever AMEN.