Sunday, March 6, 2011

Is your faith built on rock or sand?

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not 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.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Matthew 7:21-27

All along the Sermon on the Mount has been about how to be a true follower of Jesus. It now comes to an end with a reflection on what our words and deeds really mean. Just because we say we are followers of Jesus and cry out “Lord, Lord” does not mean we are true followers. We may even be able to do powerful deeds in Jesus' name. But in the end Jesus will be the real judge of who is a true follower.

It will not just be a question of hearing Jesus' words but of acting on them as well. Both people building a house in the final parable have heard Jesus' words in the Sermon just completed. But only the one who acts on them builds on rock. The situation is typical of Palestine where during the dry season not a drop of rain falls and the ground is dry and hard everywhere. But when the rains come rivers appear. Floods gush down the dry walls and houses built on the sandy soil are washed away. Only those built on solid rock remain.

For centuries Christians have been debating just how we are to understand the Sermon on the Mount. Is it really meant to be taken seriously? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Are we really supposed to turn the other cheek? give our coat to someone who asks for our shirt? Yes. But in the end each of us needs to work out the details. It is more than saying “Lord, Lord.” It is more than performing great deeds in Jesus' name. It is building our life on the rock that is Jesus himself. In him the Law and the prophets are fulfilled, and the will of God is fully revealed.

The Sermon on the Mount, which concludes in today's Gospel reading, is quite simply a masterpiece of moral and ethical teaching. It holds out the defining and absolute blueprint of how to live the life in the Spirit. It is the Magna Carta, if you like, of the Christian life.

It is easier to talk about the Sermon on the Mount (or write about it, or even preach about it) than to put it into practice. It is always easier, it is true, to fight for our principles than to live up to them. However, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, Jesus' invitation is to do just this: to put the Sermon on the Mount into practice. To live it, breathe it, witness to it and be guided by it.

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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