Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28, (29-31) – link to NRSV text
Matthew 7:21-29 – link to NRSV text
- Song Suggestions: Together To Celebrate
- Textweek: Proper 4, Year A / Ordinary 9, Year A / Pentecost +3 – Textweek Resources
- Sarah Dylan Breuer’s Blog: Proper 4, Year A – Lectionary Blog
- Mustard Seeds: Proper 4, Year A / Ordinary 9, Year A / Penecost 3 – Worship Resources
I’m still trying to figure this one out…
Some suggestions can be found over at:
- MissBible.com: The House on a Rock
- Higher Praise Christian Center: The House on a Rock (pdf)
- Dramatix.org:House Building 101 (drama)
If you decide to use the Genesis reading as a focus you might be interested in checking out the song “Flood” by Jars of Clay. (HT Mustard Seeds)
Now, this is a parable that we all know, and we know it well, in fact that we know it so well that we probably don’t need to hear the story again, so well that we already know it’s about building our lives on solid foundations, it’s about being certain, knowing Jesus, having a good moral faith.
And so, I would argue it’s a story that we need to hear all over again, because, when we think we know a parable well enough it’s then that we need to hear it again. Parables are meant to haunt us, to enter our dreams, to turn over in our minds, and if they stop haunting us we need to reinvite them into our lives.
Before we do revisit the parable I have some questions to ponder…
- What is the purpose of a foundation?
- What do we build foundations with?
- What do we build on foundations?
- What have been the foundations of the Western World?
- What have been the foundations of the Christian Church?
- What are the foundations of the Kingdom of God?
In the eyes of the world, Jesus’ message of the Kingdom was nonsensical, and it still continues to be. We love our enemies, not because they might in turn love us, but because as people of the Kingdom that is what we do. Why do we forgive people? Not because they have forgiven us, but because we’re called o be forgivers.
What do you think looks more like a solid foundation?
Economic security, border security, international security, political security, job security and financial security.
The first shall be last, love your enemies, the poor will be raised up, the rich must give it all away, and forgive peoples debts?
Be honest here, because we’ve chosen the former over the latter, the western world’s infatuation with security seems like a sound bet. The Christian church’s obsession in the past with property seems like it was a good foundation as well, a building means community, security, a future.
But what if we misidentified the rock for sand, the sand as rock?
The Church in the western world is shrinking, the storm’s hit and the foundation seem to be stressed. The western world’s economies continually seem to be at risk, our fear of the other and the need for security has lead to our communities becoming intolerant and asylum seekers being locked up for fear that they might take away other people’s jobs.
The Christian faith has also traditionally taught that to have a firm grounding, a firm foundation in the faith is to have the right belief, the right thinking, the right morals and standards. A firm foundation is something that then keeps us pure, apart from the world, unaltered in our beliefs, doubt is seen as weakness.
Jesus’ teachings have been seen as things that we simply cannot use in today’s world, loving others, giving away possessions, forgiving, even loving our enemies, forgiving debtors, overturning religious order…
Imagine what would happen to the world’s economy if we were to forgive all of our debtors, even the World Bank forgiving all f their debtors, that’s impossible some would say, but others long for it, hope for it, protest for it…
Imagine what would happen to our countries if we gave homes to those without them, if our borders were open and accepting of asylum seekers and refugees instead of suspicious of them. Once again some would see this as impossible, as potentially devastating to our way of life, and a number f “what about’s” (what about my job, what bout my money, what about my suburb, what about my child’s school?) and “what if’s (what if they’re a terrorist, what if they are lying about their need for asylum, what if it’s really no so bad over there…) would be spoken by our leaders and politicians and neighbours.
Imagine what might happen if, in the face of events like September 11 2001, the world acted in love to Afghanistan instead of war, if instead of going to war we dealt with a number of the issues that terrorists might have with the USA and others. If, instead of choosing war we always chose a different option, that of love.
Imagine what would happen if we gave our second coat/shoes/jeans/plate of food/job/car/house to people who did not have one. Imagine if we all would endlessly search for those that were lost, imagine if we all invited people we did not know to our parties, imagine if we cared for one another…
And it’s with all of this in mind that I ask a couple of questions from the text.
The first question is to do with my understanding of rock and sand.
I’m sure that the western world sees Jesus’ words and teaching as foundations of sand and their economic and social security as foundations of rock. It’s only normal for a modern world-view to have this understanding. Rock is firm; solid, good, secure… to build our society on anything else would be like building it on sand.
But If I were living in God’s Kingdom here on earth, what is more rock-like, what is the firm foundation? Surely Jesus’ teachings on poverty, love, acceptance, celebration, religious propaganda, revolution would be the firm foundation. And if I were to truly live out this reality in my life then I’d have a revolutionary moment where I’d look up and see that much of what is around me that I once thought was rock is really sand.
Much in the way that Neo in the Matrix looked up and realised the construct of the matrix was all code, and could be manipulated, fought against, challenged we look up and see what we once thought was rock moving around like sand, and realise that the Kingdom realities are the things of rock an our modern constructs of security and money were really sand.
Secondly, do I understand Jesus as the storm that blows away the house of those people who have built their house on sand? I read the stories of Jesus, his actions, his parables, his life and death and see the ways in which the politicians and religious leaders feared his teaching. Did they fear it because they knew the fragile nature of their world? Did they fear him because they’d spent a lot of time trying to fool people into understanding their reality and foundation as rock?
What happens to our world, to our neighbourhood, to our house, to our church when Jesus’ foundations are taken on by us? What is blown away, what is washed away by the floods, what is left after we really take on the Kingdom life and allow Jesus’ reign to take over?
What happens to our churches when all of this happens? Have we build our foundations on rock or sand?
I wonder if this parable is not about security or authority as much as it is about the futility of this world’s foundations. I wonder if this parable really asks us what foundations we’ve built things on. I wonder, if I were to put on Jesus’ glasses, to see through his eyes if I would instantly recognise what I know in the pits of my stomach…
That much around me is sand.