ith warmer weather June also brings the beginning of hurricane season. For the next three months the coastal areas of our southeastern states will be glued to radios for the latest news about approaching violent storms. Even in inland Atlanta we will keep one ear open. We need to be ready.
Ten years ago Hurricane Andrew tore across southern Florida destroying tens of thousands of homes. We recall seeing pictures of vast subdivisions flattened; yet, in one particularly devastated community there was one house intact, standing alone in a flattened field of hundreds of acres. When a television reported asked the homeowner how his house survived, he replied, "I built this house myself. I also built it to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2"x6" roof trusses, I used 2"x6" roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane-and it did." It appeared that not everyone had followed the "Builders' Bible" when the massive subdivision was thrown up.
Jesus includes his illustration about proper home building at the very end of his long Sermon on the Mount, which covers Matthew chapters five, six and seven. Thousands had sat all day listening to him preach (This was in the days before the Braves came to Atlanta) and after sitting and listening all this time Jesus seems to be telling them that they must do more than just listen and make great professions of faith. Jesus tells us that:
everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Jesus' plainspoken analogy between homebuilding and life building is dealing with the primary responsibility of every "would-be disciple" to build their lives to code, God's Bible. Jesus said that whoever hears his word and believes it, and then starts to build his new life life according to biblical principles is:
"..like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The 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 a rock. (v. 24-25, NRSV).
Jesus then described the negative response:
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.
Evidently Jesus knew that in modern America there would be a lot of folks who would come and sit in churches but would never let any of the words effect their lives.
Most of us have watched the television program called the most influential TV program of all time, "The Simpsons." Granted it is irreverent most of the time but it has to be in order to portray American life. Homer, the laggard father, attends worship every Sunday, but always goes to sleep. He doesn't listen. In fact, once he was asked what his pastor's name was and he replied, "You know, old 'Captain what's his name." One episode depicted Homer at the end of his rope, his life was in danger and he tried to cry out to the Lord in prayer. He bellowed, "Help me 'Jebus!" He didn't even know Jesus' name.
But, as always, there is hope in Jesus Christ, even when we temporarily forget his name, he hears our prayers and empowers us with the promise of forgiveness and New Life. The core of the Christian Faith postulates that out of code lives can be renovated and brought up to code.
A dozen years ago the "Leaning Tower of Pisa" was reopened after a twenty-five million dollar correction to its original engineering. Re-builders reduced the famous seventeen feet lean by sixteen inches, thus stabilizing the famous church bell tower. The original problem was that the heavy 185 foot structure had been built upon sand. 110 tons of sand were carefully dug out and were replaced with concrete.
This is our lives when turned over to God's renovations. We are repaired, patched up, made good for service, but we still bear the scars of surviving past adversities. But that's beautiful to God because he needs soldiers in His Mighty Army who have had the experience of many battles. Victory snatched from the teeth of defeat is God's specialty. We have an opportunity but we must grab it. We can't just sit and listen and promise that on another day we'll get serious. However, not everyone will allow God to remold them.
Pastors generally enjoy meeting co-laborers within ecumenical setting because we can hear from others who share current experiences from "outside our box." There seems to be a common frustration around the fact that, "not everyone will plug into the vision of the Kingdom." This should not come as any great surprise to us because Jesus warned long ago that, not everyone who listens will receive.
The Good News is that the window of opportunity remains open for us.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor