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The Second Sunday after Pentecost, May 29, 2005
Matthew 7:21-29. Walter W. Harms

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Know on What You Are Building
Assumptions We Make

Here in Austin, TX, USA, there is a kind of soil called Austin clay. It doesn’t look any different from other soils around the city, but it is dramatically different!

When a house is built on this Austin clay, you can count on having problems with that house. When the city has a lot of rain, Austin clay becomes soft and the house sinks ever so little. When there are droughts like we will have this summer, the clay hardens and pushes the house up and around. Pretty soon doors won’t close. Windows won’t open. Cracks may appear in the foundation. Some even split and half the house sinks. If builders do know, they generally don’t disclose the nature of the soil on which the house being sold was built. It is assumed that because Austin has so much rock, that every house is built almost on the rock. In fact, it’s so rocky here that to have a basement in your home is possible, but really you are building a swimming pool, for none of the moisture can get out of the rock hole that is your basement.

The same may be what we surmise about the spiritual foundations on which we are building our lives—that they are all rock solid, immune to whatever forces might come our way to dislodge us, disturb us. The proverbial flood, the sudden rising of waters will not disturb our “house.”

The first home I had built for my family in Austin was on Williamson Creek. The first time I looked at the property, I fell in love with it. Large trees, a place for a tree house for the sons, a creek that was overgrown with no water flowing in it. It was a terrific place for a home, until…. Well, it was early eighties, over a Memorial Day week, that we had 21 inches of rain in 7 days. One neighbor had complained that my sons had dammed the creek with a few stones. Williamson Creek grew in minutes from a dry creek to a roaring giant 500 feet wide and ten feet tall. The complaining neighbor had 40 tons + of rock deposited in his yard. It was rising and we were ready to abandon the place for it was almost a ship! Not too much damage, but the fear experienced was enough, and we moved the next year (of course, we built near, but not that near another creek! Some never learn!).

Jesus and Builders

Jesus, the practical builder wants to have wise builders. He pretty openly tells us that fools as builders are inviting destruction. Now there are lots of words in God’s Word about wise and foolish. One of those Bible verses learned in parochial school immediately comes to mind: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Having the greatest of all respects for the Lord is where it all starts. Who or what we fear and follow is what we call our “religion” or “faith” or “core value.” It also follows that this core value should appear in our worship rituals, our morality, our respect for the commands and obedience to the commands of this “who” or “what.”

Jesus says that ritual use of God’s name even when it results in demons dislodged, miracles manifested, and prolific prophesy is not what this “wise” stuff is all about. It is a matter of doing the will of the heavenly Father, Jesus’ Father. It is the one who puts into practice all the words of Jesus spoken in the Sermon on the Mount (of which our Word for today is the conclusion) that is the “wise” builder.

Factors to Determine on What We Are Builing

On what is your “house” built? Do you want to wait until destruction comes as it surely will to discover whether the subsoil was rock or sand? How might we determine the texture of the soil? I offer the following questions to test what really are our inner beliefs and why do we hold them. (These are not original with me by any means, I have borrowed them from a lecture to students at Concordia University in Austin by Professor Paul Puffe at the beginning of the “History and Literature of the Old Testament” course.)

1. What is worth dying for? What would we sacrifice for? To save our children, our country, to recover a million dollars from the ocean floor, at the possible cost of our life?

2. What is worth killing for? When is killing another human justified? Self-defense? Defense of family, property? It is proper to kill to uphold certain principles, such as defense of liberty or capitalism?

3. What is worth working for? What is worth dedicating your life to, in service and labor? To become a star? To become a millionaire? To be a successful politician? Is it a worthwhile life to be nothing but a mother and raise a family? What kind of goals makes the sacrifices acceptable?

4. What is worth living for? That is, what makes life worth living? What is that thing or things that you must have, or life is meaningless, and that if you have it, life is satisfactory, no matter what else you must endure? True love? If you are loved and love in return, is that all that matters? Are your children the end purpose of your life? Is a good family life meaningless if you never achieve success in your chosen career? Do you need to accomplish something in science, politics, sports, or the art world or else life isn’t satisfactory? What is worth living for?

Some of these questions are extremely hard to pin down. Maybe we don’t want to be pinned down. Most of us are life bees in a flower garden. We move from one flower to the next always believing that the next flower will be “it”, whatever “it” is!

Your answers to these questions will probably tell you what the subsoil of your life is, and it will tell you a lot about whether the Lord is going to say to you on “that day” which is the day when all will be revealed. Is he going to “know you” or want you to go away, because you are an “evildoer”?

A man told me just last week, a man who had been highly successful in the upper echelons of government that his goals, that for which he worked for, now was foolishness, meaningless, empty. He had finally found his purpose in working for the Lord of all. He had some pretty bad storms in his life. Most of these washed away and pointed out the “foolishness” of his previous goals. It was then that he became a doer of God’s will, a follower of Christ, and the house’s foundation became secure.

The Temptation to Ignore the Words of Jesus

That’s good because until we hear what the Lord will say to us on that “day,” you can bet your booties that storms are not over for that man or any of us.

Putting into practice the words of Jesus is the basis of a sure foundation. In the Sermon on the Mount, much is said. For example, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” This morning on TV I heard an author say that that is a lot of nonsense for it destroys was a man is all about!

“You are the light of the world!” People are looking to you for guidance. Most of hope that is not true. “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” But road rage is ok, hatred of other people is sanctioned, killing others through dropping bombs on people we consider enemies is the way to go, right? “Love your enemies.” That’s just one of those impossible morals which no one can follow. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth.” Why, our whole economic system is built on the reverse of that one! “Do not be anxious about your life.” Who can stop worrying? “Seek first the kingdom.” If I have time, I’ll think about the king and the kingdom. “Beware of false prophets.” I say avoid all prophets; they’re just out after your money anyway.

If the hearing of the words of Jesus and putting them into practice is not the foundation of your house, when what is? And what will be the result?

The Storms in Life

Jesus wants us to follow his words, to build our lives and our families on these words. He wants us to be ready for the storms of life are economic downturns, pension defaults, war, depression both mental and economic, relationship that fade, death of those who love us and whom we love, devastating illness, protracted disease, doors shut to advancement, being so foolish as to end up in serious trouble of any and every sort. Yes, even weather related events—hurricane, earthquake, drought, famine—they all may come. Will we stand, have built our present and our future on Jesus?

What Is Your Subsoil?

Jesus as Lord and Savior of us all in all times is the rock. Following him and what he says is the beginning of wisdom. Or you fear and follow the instruction of some other god. May God have mercy on us all, and make us wise. Amen.

Walter W. Harms, Retired Pastor
Austin , TX, U.S.A.
Comments? waltpast@aol.com