This week’s gospel text is the familiar words of Jesus about building our lives on solid places or the sands. May your days be grounded in the deep and abiding words of our Lord Jesus.
“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. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
Everyone then who hears 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 beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And 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. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
It is hard to flip through the news channels or glance at a newspaper without seeing the devastating results of high winds, driving rains and flood waters. In moments things that seemed secure and permanent are washed away. Tornadoes, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and other so called “acts of God” can level once serene and contented lives. Wars, terrorist attacks, crime, abuse of all forms and other “acts of humanity” can drive people to despair. And how many storms are raging within us and those we encounter that never get the front page or carefully recorded?!? People all too often weather these storms alone.
Jesus says that it is possible to survive the storms that beset us when we build our lives on his words. That doesn’t mean the storms won’t come—they do. Jesus spent plenty of time around storms literal and metaphorical. The cross didn’t pass by Jesus nor did the death of his dear friend Lazarus. As the words of Jesus came to bear on those situations life was restored from the carnage of the storms.
I was struck this past week by the lyrics of Beth Nielsen Chapman in her song “Sand and Water” which she sang at our homiletics conference:
All alone I sat and cried
All alone I had to find some meaning
In the center of the pain I felt inside
All alone I came into this world
All alone I will someday die
She captures well the isolation we feel when storms bear down on us. She probably catches the sense that Jesus had in his mind and heart in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. While these words are deep and true (whether singing about a husband dead from cancer as Beth was or singing our own verses of lament and sorrow) they are not the end of the words being spoken.
There is a deeper truth. Jesus speaks to the dead and they come to life. As Anna Carter Florence said so vividly at the workshop “What in the world can you trust if dead things don’t stay dead?” Indeed. Those are the kinds of words that Jesus speaks and we are invited to build our lives upon.
Storms continue to come. Sometimes we will even get knocked down. Sometimes there is death involved. But Jesus’ words transcend death. And in the end the words of Jesus will ultimately still the storms just as he did on that fishing boat so many years ago (see Mark 4:35-41 et al). Death will not be the final word. The empty graves will remain mocking the defeated storm clouds.
God, we are never alone. We struggle with feelings and tears and storms and pains and death but you never forsake us--particularly in those terrible times. Help us rest secure as we build our lives on your promises. Use us to speak those words to all who might hear. Amen.