Friday, October 23, 2015

Foundations Count (Luke 6:46-49) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

In response to the increasing number of tornadoes in the Midwest, a developer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, offered an optional steel reinforced safe room in the new homes he was selling. Nine of the first ten buyers opted to pay the extra $2,500 for the room—which can also be used as a closet, bathroom or vault when not needed for safety. The tenth couple, the developer himself and his wife, said they were 75 years old and opted for a hot tub instead.

Which brings us to our story from Luke.  This story is similar, but with some variations, to the story about the rock and sand in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus says foundations count, what you build upon matters, it matters a great deal.  Sound foundations are imperative.  Jesus draws this story from a natural occurrence in Israel.  In summer, many of the rivers completely dry up, leaving a sandy river bed.  A person searching for a plot of land to build a house, might see this picturesque river bed and decide to build on it.  But in winter, with the coming of the heavy rains, this person soon discovers he has constructed his home in the middle of a raging river, which sweeps the house down stream. 

A wise person searches for rock as the base, where it's more difficult to carve out a foundation, but when the torrential weather arrives, the winds blow and the rivers flood over, one’s toil is amply repaid - the house remains firm and secure.  In the final analysis it doesn't matter if your house has curb appeal, is breath-taking, exotic, palatial, a show home, if it has the Wow factor,  if its foundation is flawed.  

I think everything in life needs something firm, something dependable, something stable underneath it.  The foundation of our house, our business, our career, our marriage, our family, our friendships, our church, our faith, you fill in the blank.  A solid foundation is indispensable.   How secure, how stable, how sound are your foundations?

Intelligent and competent structural engineers who design buildings and bridges are always in demand.  Whether you are designing a house or a highrise you want to make sure that your engineer knows what he or she is doing.   When I'm driving across the spectacular Coronado Bridge, taking in that breathtaking view out over the middle of the San Diego bay, I don't want to hear that the engineer who designed it graduated at the bottom of his class, but he was a real nice guy or that the woman who designed it nearly flunked out, but was really a sweet heart. 

We Californians are quite familiar with earthquakes. When the Coalinga earthquake of 1983, with a magnitude of 6.4 occurred, many things were discovered.  One was that houses that were bolted to their foundation withstood that earthquake.  On the other hand, the houses that were built in a period when they did not bolt them to the foundation, and the horizontal earth movement occurred, the house moved maybe six or seven inches off its foundation.  And that's what caused the house to collapse.   This was a key discovery made at Coalinga; houses should be bolted into their foundation.   Do we do this in San Diego

Jesus' words apply to more than houses and bridges.   I'm speaking about building solid educational foundations, work experience foundations, financial foundations, emotional foundations, mental foundations, moral foundations, religious and spiritual foundations, physical exercise foundations, these are critical.  When our foundations begin to crack, crumble, they eventually collapse and it brings ruination in its wake.
We know that in general children growing up in abusive or in seriously dysfunctional homes, I say seriously because there is some dysfunction in all of our homes, have a tougher time of sorting out their lives, of forming their identity, of coping with their past, of establishing stable relationships, than children from healthy homes.  It certainly does not mean it's impossible, that they can't grow up to be healthy individuals, but its a harder road.     They like all of us need a solid spiritual foundation and this is what Jesus is speaking about. 

Jesus is saying come to Him, hear His words, build your life on Him, because Jesus brings God's saving love, merciful healing from past wounds, forgiveness, and hope for a new beginning.

If you have a solid foundation, you can weather the storms of life.   Logically, it should be layed before the storms come.  That is ideal.  You can't lay them in the middle of a terrifying storm.  You need to get your base solidified before the storm, so when the storm comes, you're not in crisis.  But life happens and that is not always possible.  We don't always prepare ourselves before the storms.  And Jesus understands this.  He is saying it is never too late, come to Him, hear His words and build your life on Him. 

We of course well know that storms and floods, figuratively and literally, are a part of life.  Sooner or later you and I will experience a storm.   Storms always disclose one thing; they reveal what kind of foundation you're on, they test your foundation.  In a storm you will discover whether you're faith rests on the truth and power of God or not.  There's often a huge gap between worshiping God when all is well and worshiping God when all is wrong, that is, when your faith has been tested and when your faith is untested.  If your foundation is sure, God's word and power will hold you steady.

Jesus warns us about building our lives on sand.  For example, we hear painful stories about the breakdown of the family in our society.  When I hear this I think about the truth of Jesus' words.  That American families are facing troubles is no secret.  Some even claim that the American family is in crisis.  Why?  I truly believe one key reason is because more and more American families are not concerned with building spiritual foundations.   Families find other things to do and other places to go on Sunday mornings, than to worship and praise God and to learn in Sunday school.   This change in our culture is evident when one drives to church on Sundays and sees schools and parks alive with soccer games and little league games.  I'm all for sports, please don't misunderstand me.  But on Sunday mornings?

I take Jesus' words literally, that when you neglect and ignore spirituality, when you turn your back on God and Christ, family foundations suffer and have a much harder time of coping with the storms of life.

So how do we know we are building our lives on the foundation of Christ?  Jesus answers this clearly.   He says:  “Why do you call me Lord Lord, and do not do what I tell you?”   Jesus presents a dichotomy between sand builders and rock builders.  Jesus says:  “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice in contrast to the one who hears my words but does not act on them or put them into practice.”

We are not talking about a convoluted mystery in Jesus' words.  One who is building one's life on Christ shows it, exemplifies it, demonstrates it.  There is visual evidence for people to see.  People see your Christian life in action.  Others know you worship God, you serve others, perhaps in the church or the community, you share your finances, your time, your talents in Christ's name, you participate in fellowship with other believers, you witness to your faith by your words and actions, you learn and grow spiritually through prayer and bible study.   You incorporate your Christian convictions, your faith commitment, into your life-style.

One is building his or her life on the foundation of Christ who comes to Christ, hears his word, and acts on it or puts Christ's word into practice, that is, into one's everyday life.  People see that Jesus, that your faith, makes a difference in your life and is important to you.  They see that faith is a priority.

The question really is - if not Christ, then whom?   If you do not choose to trust in Christ’s
faithfulness as the starting point of your life, then what or whom do you propose to build you
life upon - money, success, hedonism?   For you and I will choose something.  That is
human nature, sooner or later we will decide to build our lives on something or someone else.  The choice is yours and mine.

Choosing to build your life on Christ is not a once in a lifetime decision.  At least that's not how I see it.  I see it as an ongoing decision.  A continual decision.  A daily decision.
It is a decision of faith.  For we know there are daily temptations which tempt us to follow another way or to commit ourselves to something or someone else.

And don't miss this point in our story; Jesus our Lord, whom we worship, is not just a fair weather Lord.   You can count on Jesus when all is not well.   The New Testament is filled with stories about Jesus being with his disciples in the midst of storms.  

I don't know what storms and floods you have faced or will face.  I do know this, Jesus is a rock, a solid foundation.  Jesus is your foundation and He is mine.  God, the father, son and Holy Spirit is the first word and  the eternal word and storms will never have the last word.

I believe this with all my heart; building your life upon Jesus enables your faith to weather the storms of life.  I believe and we affirm as Christians, that Christ is the sure Foundation.  Jesus says:  “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them...shall be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock; the rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”    Amen!

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