March 27, 2016
“The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon this glorious Easter morning is the lesson read earlier from Matthew 7 – the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
My dear friends,
Working with children is quite a blessing…and a challenge. One of the challenges, especially during worship, is that you never know what a kid is going to say when they have an open floor and open mic. Once, the question before the kids gathered for an Easter children’s sermon was this, “What did Jesus do on Easter?” The pastor may have been looking for a variety of answers, but five-year-old Micah cut to the chase and shouted, “Jesus riz! He said he would, and he did!” And there you have it, plain and simple. Wait! “Riz”? For an English major, a word like “riz” is like fingers on a chalkboard!
Today we look at the resurrection of Jesus not through the eyes of a 5 year old, but through the words of a parable He told at the end of his Sermon on the Mount. You may know the story line. Two builders each build a house, one on solid rock and the other on shifting sand. Not surprisingly, when a storm comes with its torrential rains and violent winds, the house on the rock stands sturdy while the house on the sand falls apart. Jesus says, hearing his words and doing them is like building a house on rock. Hearing his words and not doing them is like building a house on sand.
It is amazing to consider the variety of sandy soils available as we consider building a life. I know it happens…I used to do the exact same things before going to the Seminary. Especially if we spend most of our time far from earshot of the teachings of Jesus, we can entertain all kind of sandy foundations. We can make our life all about making a lot of money or collecting a lot of stuff or becoming well-known and respected, or competing and winning. We can build a life on raising good kids or just being healthy or happy or good-looking or smart.
These fair-weather foundations all work until the storms come. When cancer hits or relationships falter or we spend more time talking to our child’s probation officer than an Ivy-league Provost, when we fail utterly or lose our job or do something really stupid and face the consequences for it, then we say, “My life is falling apart! Things are in shambles! My life is a mess!” At other times we may feel the building shake, whisper a prayer like, “Help!” and wonder if we’ll make it through this one or not. If we do come out unscathed, it’s incredible how willing we are to return to our fair-weather foundations.
Today the risen Lord Jesus Christ is asking that you make him the sure foundation of your life. He is inviting you to take his teachings to heart—all of them—and to live by them EVERY DAY – not just twice a year: one Sunday every spring and December 25th. He is asking you to be a dynamic listener to his Word who thrives on aligning your will with his, living by what he teaches.
Now why would you do that? Why is Jesus Christ worthy of being the solid rock on which you build your life? That’s where Easter comes in. We may chuckle at Micah’s shout in the children’s sermon, “Jesus riz!” but what he said next is what is worth remembering even more. He said, “Jesus riz! He said he would, and he did!” First and foremost, the resurrection of Jesus paves the way to life beyond death for all who believe in him. My prayer is that everyone here today can say in their heart of hearts, “I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me and rose from the dead so that I might be forgiven and have eternal life!”
Yet underneath that great confession of faith is another truth we must believe—Jesus can be trusted. That is, Jesus’ words are true. Micah got it. Jesus said he would suffer, die, and then rise in three days (Mk 9:31), and he did! Jesus said to those who opposed him, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19), and he did! When his good friend Lazarus died, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), and he is!
Because “Jesus riz” just as he said he would, we can trust him. We can trust everything he teaches us. If he had not risen, if he had lied about his rising, we’d be left with sandy soil and a shaky life of very short duration. The inspired apostle Paul put it this way, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17).
As a young Harvard graduate in 1960, John Updike entered his poem in the annual religious arts festival of Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He won “Best of Show” and gave the $100 prize back to the church. The first of the seven stanzas celebrating the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ reads:
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
(John Updike, Collected Poems, 1953-1993, Knopf, 1993)
And for 2000 years, the Church has withstood persecution and oppression and it’s still here. Maybe John Updike had it right. If the resurrection never happened, the Church will fall. And it hasn’t. So I guess that little Micah couldn’t have said it better. Jesus is Riz! He is Riz indeed! Happy Easter everyone.