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On the second last Sunday before the start of Lent, known as Sexagesima, the focus is on God’s work through His Word. The Sower sows the seed of His Word (Luke 8:4–15). This Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4:9–13) to conceive new life in those who hear it. But the planting of Christ is attacked by the devil, the world, and the flesh. Satan snatches the Word away from hard hearts. The riches and pleasures of this life choke off faith. Shallow and emotional belief withers in time of temptation and trouble. But see how Christ bears this attack for us! Christ’s cross was planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Satan and His demons hellishly hounded and devoured Him. Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed these enemies of ours. Jesus is Himself the Seed which fell to the ground and died in order that it might sprout forth to new life and produce much grain. In Him, the weak are strong (2 Cor. 11:19–12:9). He is the Word of the Father which does not return void (Is. 55:10–13) but yields a harvest hundredfold. Lesson summary source.

The Appointed Scripture Readings for Today
The Introit: Ps. 44:1–2, 7–8; antiphon: Ps. 44:23, 25a, 26a
The Psalter: Psalm 84 (antiphon: v. 4)
Old Testament: Isaiah 55:10–13
Gradual: Psalm 83: 18, 13
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:19—12:9
Verse: Psalm 60:1-2, 5
Gospel: Luke 8:4–15

Let Us Pray
O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Luther on Luke 8:4-15
Christ’s Word plainly states that only a fourth part of the seed bears fruit, and his own experience (to say nothing of John’s and the apostles’ experience) exhibits the fact that not everyone was ready to believe and accept the Word. The majority of the people are and remain evil and without fruit; only a limited number, a fraction, repent and come to faith. Therefore, to fault the doctrine and say that it is no good, amounts also to saying that the seed which falls by the wayside, on the rocks, and among the thorns is also not good. But we must turn this around and not blaspheme God. His Word is the seed which is being sown. This Word in truth is pure and good, and by its very nature can do nothing but bear fruit. The fact, however, that it does not bear fruit everywhere is not the fault of God and his Word but the fault of the soil which is not good, and in which, as a result, the seed must remain unproductive and decay. For the blame does not lie with the Word but with people’s hearts. They are unclean and impure, and either despise the Word or fall away from it under duress, or are choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. So, let everyone learn from this parable that it will always be this way with the gospel: some will be converted but there are probably three times more who will take offense. Listen to God’s Word while you have it; the time may come when you would like to hear it, but it may not be there for you. Therefore, give ear to it diligently while you have it. For he who despises it is overcome by darkness (John 12:35). Source: Luther’s House Postils

Bach’s Cantata BWV 18 for this Sunday, with German/English words, is in the extended entry

Bach Cantata BWV 18 [text in German and English follows the video]

Cantata for Sexagesima
1. Sinfonia

2. Recitativ B
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt und nicht wieder dahin kommet, sondern feuchtet die Erde und macht sie fruchtbar und wachsend, daß sie gibt Samen zu säen und Brot zu essen: Also soll das Wort, so aus meinem Munde gehet, auch sein; es soll nicht wieder zu mir leer kommen, sondern tun, das mir gefället, und soll ihm gelingen, dazu ich’s sende.
(Isaiah 55:10-11)
1. Sinfonia

2. Recitative B
Just as the rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return again to it, rather moisten the earth and make it fruitful and growing, so that it gives seed for sowing and bread to eat: So shall the word, that goes forth from My mouth, be also; it will not return to me empty, rather it does my will, and shall achieve the purpose for which I send it.
3. Recitativ T B und Litanei - Chor
Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein:
Ich öffne dir’s in meines Jesu Namen;
So streue deinen Samen
Als in ein gutes Land hinein.
Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein:
Laß solches Frucht, und hundertfältig, bringen.
O Herr, Herr, hilf! o Herr, laß wohlgelingen!
Du wollest deinen Geist und Kraft zum
Worte geben,
Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!

Nur wehre, treuer Vater, wehre,
Daß mich und keinen Christen nicht
Des Teufels Trug verkehre.
Sein Sinn ist ganz dahin gericht’,
Uns deines Wortes zu berauben
Mit aller Seligkeit.
Den Satan unter unsre Füße treten.
Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!

Ach! viel verleugnen Wort und Glauben
Und fallen ab wie faules Obst,
Wenn sie Verfolgung sollen leiden.
So stürzen sie in ewig Herzeleid,
Da sie ein zeitlich Weh vermeiden.
Und uns für des Türken und des Papsts
[Und uns für des Feindes und Satanas]
grausamen Mord und Lästerungen,
Wüten und Toben väterlich behüten.
Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!

Ein andrer sorgt nur für den Bauch;
Inzwischen wird der Seele ganz vergessen;
Der Mammon auch
Hat vieler Herz besessen.
So kann das Wort zu keiner Kraft gelangen.
Und wieviel Seelen hält
Die Wollust nicht gefangen?
So sehr verführet sie die Welt,
Die Welt, die ihnen muß anstatt des Himmels stehen,
Darüber sie vom Himmel irregehen.
Alle Irrige und Verführte wiederbringen.
Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!
(Excerpts from the Litany)
3. Recitative T B and Litany - Chorus
My God, here is my heart:
I open it to you in my Jesus’ name;
so cast your seed within
as on a fertile soil.
My God, here is my heart:
May it bear such fruit, and hundred-fold.
O Lord, Lord, help! O Lord, let it be accomplished!
That you would lend your spirit and power
with your Word,
Hear us, dear Lord God!

Only assure, true Father, assure,
that neither I nor any Christians
are perverted by the Devil’s deceit.
His purpose is completely dedicated
to robbing us of Your word
and all its blessedness.
That Satan be crushed under our feet.
Hear us, dear Lord God!

Ah! Many deny word and faith
and fall away like rotten fruit,
if they suffer persecution.
So they plunge into eternal suffering,
in order to avoid a temporary woe.
That we, from the Turks and the Pope’s
[That we, from the Enemy’s and Satan’s]
horrid murder and blasphemy,
raging and fury, be fatherly protected.
Hear us, dear Lord God!

Another cares only for his belly;
in the meantime totally forgetting his soul;
Mammon also
has possessed many hearts.
The Word by no means can triumph here.
And how many souls are not
held captive by lust?
So strongly the world tempts them,
the world, that must take Heaven’s place for them,
since from heaven they wander away.
That all erring and misled ones be brought back.
Hear us, dear Lord God!
4. Arie S
Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort;
Außer dem sind alle Schätze
Solche Netze,
Welche Welt und Satan stricken,
Schnöde Seelen zu berücken.
Fort mit allen, fort, nur fort!
Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort.
4. Aria S
My soul’s treasure is God’s word;
Besides this all precious things
are such webs
woven by the world and Satan,
to entice miserable souls.
Away with all of them, away, away!
My soul’s treasure is God’s word.
5. Choral
Ich bitt, o Herr, aus Herzens Grund,
Du wollst nicht von mir nehmen
Dein heil’ges Wort aus meinem Mund;
So wird mich nicht beschämen
Mein Sünd und Schuld, denn in dein Huld
Setz ich all mein Vertrauen:
Wer sich nur fest darauf verläßt,
Der wird den Tod nicht schauen.
(“Durch Adams Fall is ganze verderbt,” verse 8)
5. Chorale
I pray, o Lord, from the bottom of my heart,
that You will never take
Your holy Word from my mouth;
so will I never be ashamed by
my sin and guilt, for in your grace
I place all my trust:
whoever relies firmly upon this,
will never look upon death.
Erdmann Neumeister; Isaiah 55:10-11 (mov’t. 2); Martin Luther, portions of the Litany (1528/29), (mov’t. 3); “Durch Adams Fall is ganze verderbt,” verse 8: Lazarus Spengler 1524 (mov’t. 5)

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