“Hole n the rock, Moab, Utah” by jphilipg, 2011 (CC BY 2.0)
Matthew 7.24-29 (NIV)
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Have you all ever seen those dried up, sandy, creek beds in the desert? They look like it has been years since any water has run through them?
In high school my youth group would go on these awesome mountain bike trips. Each summer we switched between riding bikes for a week somewhere in Colorado, and Moab, Utah. When we were in Moab we would always camp in the same place – Hunter Canyon. It was beautiful. Red rock canyon walls. A spring that ran down the side of the canyon. Big old cottonwood trees growing along the sides of the dried up, sandy creek beds.
We were supposed to set up our tents in the campsite away from the banks of the creek. But there were lots of rocks to work around there. One of my friends noticed the sand in the creek bed. It was so dry. It must have been ages since any water had made its way through. That soft sand made up his mind. He pitched his tent in the waterless creek bed. I think he gave us a hard time, telling us that he was going to sleep better in that sand than we were going to sleep on those rocks.
One afternoon, after our ride, we decided to explore the canyon we were camping in. We followed the dry creek bed like a sandy path up the red sandstone canyon. I stopped with a group of people to climb on some boulders and look for lizards. Another group went on ahead. After a while, the group that had gone further, came running back down the canyon yelling and screaming.
“Flood! Flood! There is water coming! Watch out! Get the tent out of the creek bed!”
It was one of those flash floods that can be so unexpected in deserts. It wasn’t as much water as their urgency and panic made it sound like.
My friend’s decision to set up his tent in the sandy, dry creek bed led to frantic and panicky work as we ran down the canyon to get the tent out of the water’s path.
The parable Jesus tells at the end of the Sermon on the Mount probably draws from desert geography, similar to that dried up creek bed in Moab. It may look like it has been ages since water has flowed through it, but that dry sand doesn’t tell the whole story.
Douglas Hare writes,
“The two houses represent not good or bad construction practices, but wise and foolish choices of [a building] site. The foolish man builds as well as the wise but makes the incredible mistake of erecting his house on the sands of a wadi, the dry bed of a seasonal river. When the rainy season arrives with its violent storms, a wild torrent rushes down the wadi from the hills and engulfs the house. The [foolish man] had chosen an easy building site without considering the consequences of his choice” (Interpretation: Matthew, p. 86).
As Jesus finishes his sermon, he urges his disciples and the crowds that have gathered around, to be wise, to be people build houses on the rock … they, we, are invited … we are called … to be people who act on Jesus’ lesson. We are called to be people who trust Jesus, people whose hearts are near to Jesus, people who seek and embrace God’s will as it is revealed in Jesus, people who build our lives on Jesus, on his teaching … on his example.
Jesus insists on this.
Jesus wants his disciples to be people who do what he says.
Jesus invites us to open our hearts to him, to follow his way. Jesus want’s his disciples to be people whose lives are shaped by obedience to his words.
Later in Mathew’s gospel Jesus teaches that being hearers and doers of his will could be as simple as welcoming strangers, feeding a hungry person, offering a drink to someone who is thirsty, giving clothes to someone who needs them, visiting a prisoner. When Jesus talks about this in Matthew 25, in the parable he tells, the people who had done all this stuff this hadn’t even realized they were doing it … it just seemed like the natural fruit, the natural flow of faith in their lives.
But sometimes following Jesus … sometimes our commitment to hearing and doing the word of Jesus has higher stakes …
As I have thought about Jesus’ call to be doers of his word, I have thought a lot about Corrie ten Boom. Her family’s story is so interesting. The ten Booms’s were watchmakers who lived a generally quiet and faithful life in Holland. As World War Two came closer and closer, they experienced the world around them fall apart. As the horror of Nazi’s occupation became more part of their lives, they watched fear and distrust grow among their neighbors. They watched as many churches became less and less like Christ. As they resisted the hatred that surrounded them, as they followed Jesus through incredibly difficult times, they took risks and opened their hearts and homes to their Jewish neighbors.
Corrie Ten Boom tells about a Jewish mother and her tiny baby who came to their home looking for help. Other people had been reluctant to help because they were afraid the baby’s crying would be too much of a liability.
The ten Booms thought God had sent the perfect solution to their dilemma when a friend of theirs who was pastor of a church in a nearby small town walked into their shop. This pastor’s home was out of the way and secluded, the perfect place to hide a baby. Corrie asked the pastor if he might be willing to hide the Jewish mother and her child in his home.
The pastor scolded Corrie.
“Miss ten Boom! I do hope you’re not involved with any of this illegal concealment and undercover business. It’s just not safe … we could lose our lives for that Jewish child!”
As the pastor spoke, Corrie’s elderly father appeared.
He asked to hold the child. He looked into baby’s little face. He looked up at the pastor and spoke.
“You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.”
The pastor just turned and walked out of the room, leaving the ten Boom’s to care for the mother and her baby (“The Hiding Place,” pp. 114-115).
That is building on a rock foundation.
That is hearing Jesus’ word and putting it into practice.
Jesus’ teaching challenges so much of what his disciples saw in the world around them … the Sermon on the Mount, isn’t just good advice for getting ahead or living a meaningful life. Jesus’ teaching is an invitation to lead a life that challenges business as usual. It is a call to a life that is shaped by convictions and actions that are countercultural. It is a call to live with hearts that are near to God … hearts that reveal and reflect God’s desires for the world … hearts that are shaped by the values of God’s kingdom:
The very first words of his sermon should have tipped us off –
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 6:3-10)
This is an invitation to be part of something big … something revolutionary … something life changing and world shaking.
This is an invitation to “participate in God’s renewal of all things.”