Tag Archives: Sand

The Sermon, Part 28: God’s Will

Read Matthew 7:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.’” (Genesis 6:13-14, NRSV)

shii-choblastdeflectI can only imagine that what you are thinking right now is the following question: “What kind of fool builds a house in such a vulnerable place?” I mean, even a moron would know to pick rock over sand to build a house upon. This parable itself almost seems so outrageous that one has to wonder why Jesus told it in the first place. To whom could be likened to the fool of this parable? The Pharisees? The Sadducees? Jesus’ followers? We know it could not be the Herodians, so named because they were supporters and court members of King Herod Antipas, whose father built marvelous and enduring structures. Heck, even the common peasant would know better than to build their house on sand.

So, who would be so foolish as to pick a vulnerable spot to build their home? While the parable itself might seem foolish, when one thinks about it, people build their homes in vulnerable places all the time. Look at the city of Pompeii at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius? Or how about all the lovely beach homes down in Florida. Or the city of New Orleans built in a bowl-shaped depression that sits below the sea level? Or those living in the Mid-West, also known as Tornado Alley. Of course, one cannot forget Californian cities, such as Los Angeles, which lie upon (or above) two humungous, shifting rocks (known as tectonic plates).

Though I think this should be obvious, I feel compelled to point out that the purpose of this building analogy is not to give instruction on the best practices. Nor is to state that building on “the rock” is without its faults (pun intended); however, the point transcends all of that. The point that Jesus is making has little to do with construction and more to do with foresight and discernment. The question is this: do you have enough foresight to see the signs of the times and build your life appropriately?

Before we go further, I would like to pull in one of my favorite film series into this: Star Wars. There is a scene in the original film (now titled, Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope) where Luke is being trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi to use the Force. In it, a Jedi training device is floating around a blind-folded Luke Skywalker’s head and it is shooting small blaster beams at him. They are not powerful enough to do any real damage, but Luke can feel them every time he gets zapped.

The idea of this is that Luke is supposed to use his light saber to deflect the blaster rays and avoid getting zapped, but he isn’t succeeding. How can he deflect something he cannot see. For Master Obi-Wan, the answer is simple: “Use the Force”. In other words, if Luke could just tap into the force and feel what stirs with in it, he would have the foresight to know where those blaster beams are about to strike.

Eventually, Luke does master that training and is able to use the force. I use this scene in the film as an analogy for what Jesus is trying to teach. The builders aren’t smart or foolish based off of their skills, but based off of their foresight, or lack thereof. In ancient Palestine, if one built a house in the dry season, the hard, sandy ground would not seem like a bad place to build a home; however, anyone with foresight would know that when the rain comes…it really comes…and that hard sandy floor turns to a torrent of mud and grit that would wipe the home right out of existence. If the builder had enough foresight to see the potential of what could lie ahead, then he or she would build that house on solid rock, raised above the hard, dried, sandy land. Or, sometimes, like Noah one needs the foresight to forego building a house and start building a rather large boat!

The question for us is this, do we have the foresight to see and understand the will of God? Can we, to use the Star Wars terminology, sense and feel the force within us? Can we see its direction and understand what path it is guiding us down? Can we feel the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all Creation, with in us and do we have a sense of what God wills for us? If so, our faith is founded on the rock and we will have the foresight to do what God is willing for us. If not, our faith is founded on the sand and when the times meet up with the signs, we will not survive the flood. Like Luke, like Noah, like Abraham, and all of the people guided by their faith, we too can have such foresight and be a part of what God is doing in the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past. Old friends long gone.” – Jedi Master Yoda

PRAYER
Lord, I open myself up to your will. Give me the foresight to sense it and act upon it. Amen.

From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NLT)

sandbagsLast weekend, while down at our Annual Conference down in Wildwood, NJ, I made sure that I got up at 6 am every morning to do one of my favorite things in the world. I would get up, get dressed, plug earphones into my music, and take a nice four mile jog on the beach. I just love going for a jog, no matter where I am; however, there is nothing quite like jogging along the shoreline, right by the water’s edge.

One of those mornings my oldest daughter came with me. We ran a good two or more miles South heading from Wildwood to Wildwood Crest. I was very proud of my daughter who jogged the first 2 miles with me. It’s amazing to see how much her endurance has grown over the past couple of years and it is a pleasure being able to share in a run with her, with both of us enjoying the time together and the time exercising.

On the way back, she asked me, “Dad, are we supposed to stay off the dunes?” I looked at her and smiled, while replying, “Yes, we should stay off the dunes.” She then asked me why that was. “Is it to protect the natural habitat of the animals,” she asked, rather wisely and inquisitively. “Yes,” I responded, “part of the reason is to protect the natural habitat; however, the dunes also play another important role. You see, they help to act as a natural barrier when storms cause the water to come this far up the beach. In a major hurricane they wouldn’t be large or strong enough, but they do act as a line of defense against storm surges.”

I then brought up the fact that whenever there is flooding, people will often build up walls of sand bags. My daughter was amazed at this. “How can sand really stop water from gushing out and flooding everything? Sand is so small and washes away so easily.” Her point was a valid one and, so, I responded, “Yes, loose sand is pretty small and insignificant. But when the sand is bound together in a bag, packed in tightly, it goes from being loose and wish-washy to being like a cement wall. One grain of sand is pretty insignificant; however, trillions upon trillions of grains of sand packed and working together is a force to be reckoned with!”

What an important lesson of us, as people of faith, to learn. We often think of doing BIG THINGS and CHANGING THE WORLD; however, when we head out there to do it we feel so small and insignificant. We often find ourselves wondering if we can really change anything. We become confused, discouraged, and we often end up feeling helpless and hopeless. What’s more tragic is that, in the end, we often give up on our call to be an agent of change.

But God has not called us to individual grains of sand. We are not called to be islands floating out in the middle of nowhere; rather, we have been called into community with one another. When Jesus was ministering to his people in ancient Israel (then known as the Roman Provence of Palestine), he did not do so alone. Instead, he gathered a group of twelve disciples and, actually, had many more disciples and followers than that.

Together, they were able to bring REAL change…REAL HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS to the “least of these” in his community. That is what we are being called to do…not alone, but together as God’s children…as God’s community of faith. It is together, working as the hands and feet of Christ, that we really witness to the world the transforming POWER of God’s LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

PRAYER

Lord, bring me ever deeper into your community of followers so that I may be a blessing to them and, likewise, them to me. Guide us forward so that we may bring your transformative love into the lives of others, one person at a time. Amen.