Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Sept. 9, 2018 – “Welcome Sunday!”
This summer we studied the Sermon on the Mount, an amazing collection of some of Jesus’ most important and unique teachings. The parable we’ll study today is how he ends his message.
This short parable is a very good example of how Jesus spoke in such a way as to make his teachings easy to be remembered, and therefore easy to be passed on to others. He uses picturesque speak, a poetic structure to his words, and a good, clear memorable illustration. Jesus was a master orator – picturesque speech, poetry & parable – all in just four verses.
I’d like to give you a little feel, as best I can, of what this message and especially its ending might have felt like for Jesus’ listeners.
Listen to some of Jesus’ words, leading up to the parable:
(excerpts from The Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5-7)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are they that mourn for they will be comforted.
Blessed are you who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied.
You are the Salt of the Earth! You are the Light of the World! Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.
If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, go two.
If someone asks you for your jacket, give them your shirt, too. They probably don’t have one of them either.
You have heard it said, ‘Love your friends and hate you enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies; do good to those who persecute you and pray for them!
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases like the hypocrites do, for they think they’ll be heard because of their many words.
When you pray say. . . . Our Father in heaven, your name is holy. May your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Do not worry about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall wear. Your Heavenly Father knows you need these things. So seek first the kingdom of heaven, and God will take care of the rest.
And don’t go around judging others, for if you do, you, too, will be judged by others. And don’t worry about the spec in other peoples’ eyes. Worry about the log in your own eye.
Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. This one principle sums up the Torah & the Prophets
And then Jesus concluded with this: (Matthew 7:24-29)
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Hopefully that gives you a sense of Jesus, the master orator. But he was also a master of something else, too. – carpentry/construction. Jesus built houses for a living. Matthew’s Gospel says Joseph was a carpenter. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus himself was a carpenter.
So this illustration was not some theoretical analogy he dreamed up in his ivory tower study at home. It came to him most likely when he was on the job.
I must admit that I used to struggle with this parable a little bit, because I wouldn’t necessarily want to build my house on a rock, because it would be difficult to have a basement. And I like having a basement. Where else are you going to keep your dehumidifier?
But then one day in Maine this parable came alive for me.
I had a parishioner named Steve. Steve lived on Gerrish Island, a nice-size island in Kittery, Maine. Steve’s house was near the ocean and he did most of the construction work on his house himself – except for some complicated tasks that required special equipment.
One of these tasks was anchoring the house. Steve explained it this way, “We intentionally built the house on a large rock, and then we anchored the house to the rock.”
So, the guys who poured the foundation of the house first drilled into the rock and inserted reinforcing bars (rebar), into the rock, which then became attached to the house as the foundation was poured enveloping the reinforcing bars.
Then Steve said, “But they had to drill down deep, because we’re not far from the water here, and a storm surge could easily reach our house. But it won’t move it now, because it’s anchored to the rock.”
I then said, “That’s Matthew 7, the Build-on-the-Rock parable.”
Steve said, “I know, Pastor. I’ve been waiting for you to make that connection.”
The church is here to help us “drill down deep” into our faith, into the Rock of our Faith, Jesus Christ.
The church is here to anchor our lives in the living God.
The church is here to give us and our children a firm foundation.
Here are some numbers:
I quoted to you about 50% of 3 chapters of Matthew’s gospel.
There are 257 more chapters in the New Testament.
And 929 chapters in the Old Testament.
So after the 3 chapters we covered today, we only have 1,186 more! So we’ve got a ways to go to “drill down deep!”
Of course, Jesus said, it’s not just the studying that counts, it’s living out his teachings that make the difference.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them is the wise person,” who’s building their house on the solid rock.
William Barclay makes the point that one could take a test on the teachings and ethics of Christ and get a perfect score and still not be a Christian. For it’s not knowing his teachings that makes us Christian. It’s acting upon them and living them out that makes us Christian.
Barclay says: “Knowledge must become action; theory must become practice; theology must become life.”
When we dig down deep into the Rock who is Jesus Christ, and we absorb his teachings, so much so, that they become part of our thoughts, our priorities, our actions, our habits, our character, then our lives become solidly anchored to God, and we have a strong foundation for when the storms of life come upon us.
I’ll close with one of my favorite stories. It’s the story about a king who had three sons and a beautiful ring. Each son coveted the ring and hoped to inherit it when their father died. The king, their father became aware of how much they admired his ring. So when the king died he left for them three rings and a note. The note said,
“My dear sons, one of these rings is real & two are fake. The way you will know who has the real ring is that the son with the real ring will be the most kindand& generous person in all the land.”
And so each of the three sons spent the rest of his life trying to prove that he had the real ring.
It’s the same way with our faith. The way we show that our faith is real and genuine and authentic is by how we live and how we love and how we serve. It’s “hungering and thirsting after righteousness,” and being “peacemakers,” and “salt of the earth” and “lights to the world.”
It’s living out his teachings!
That’s how we build upon the Solid Rock of Christ!