Thursday 19 October 2023

Construction Zone

Jesus tells a lot of stories. Parables - those little stories with a big point - are one of his favourite teaching tools. Some are simple, some are more complicated. For us, some might require explanation of first century life and how people of that time understood certain words and images, especially as they related to day-to-day life, but all of them were designed to be readily understood (maybe with a little thought) and all of them illustrate some universal truth.

There’s one parable that we call The Wise and Foolish Builders. Jesus tells this little story about a wise builder who built his house on rock. Storms and floods came, but the house stood firm because it had been built on rock. A foolish builder built his house on sand. The same storms and floods washed it away because it had been build on sand.

It’s a great utility metaphor: a solid foundation is necessary to build anything, whether on literal bedrock or years of study, practice or training. Without a solid base, any structure is doomed to fall, a home or building, institution, business, career, a life. Especially a life.

And that’s Jesus’ concern when he uses it. The story appears in the gospel of Matthew at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and in Luke at the end of the corresponding Sermon on the Plain. Jesus offers this wisdom at the end of a lengthy teaching about how to live.

Matthew, in particular, includes The Beatitudes, teaching about the Law, teaching about moral and ethical issues, prayer and assorted other parables in his sermon. Whether it was one full length sermon or teachings assembled by Matthew that way, it is a key source of Jesus’ teaching. And then, at the end, this mic drop.

I don’t think Jesus means to say the foundation for our lives is just faith in God. Or Jesus. Or even in Jesus’ teachings. It’s certainly not about behaviour. He even prefaces the parable with another one of those great comments about how those who say they believe, use his words and put on a good show of behaving the way they should, just don’t get it. Those people don’t really “know” Jesus. To know Jesus is to live Jesus, that’s the foundation he’s talking about.

Faith needs to be put into more than practice, it needs to be put into life. All those teachings, from the Beatitudes to the Law and everything else, are meaningless unless lived from the heart. We build what we build from the good in our heart: love, grace, compassion, justice - all the things Jesus was just talking about - lived everyday from the heart.

It’s not easy and the world will push back. The house might get hail damage or broken windows, it might need new shingles and a fresh coat of paint, but it will be a home. Being Jesus means being authentic and genuine with what’s in your heart and, according to Matthew, the crowd sees that in Jesus that day. Will others see it in you?