Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why we Need to Build on the Foundation of Jesus Christ

Luke 6:47-49 (NRSV): Our Foundation
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.
We all go through tough times in our lives. At times, we can be challenged at work, or we can be put to trial within our own families. For those we love the most can, sometimes, pose the greatest threat to our peace. The question, however, is how do we meet and persevere in life’s trials? Do we acquiesce and let others walk all over us, do we lash out and destroy the peace of everyone in our wake, or do we act in love doing our best to make each situation work for the other and then ourselves? In this Scripture, Jesus’ discourse implies the same question to his audience and to us.

Jesus reminds his disciples that there are two ways to respond to his words. The first is to act on them, and this implies positive action. The second, conversely, is to hear but not act. In order to illustrate his point, Jesus uses a building metaphor, one that he would know well since he is not only the “builder” of the universe but also a carpenter by trade. And the metaphor is quite simple: Those who take Christ's words seriously and act on them in their everyday lives build a metaphorical house on a solid foundation, a base that no storm or natural force can shake. Those who don’t act on Christ’s words build without a foundation and risk ruin at life’s slightest storms.

When my wife Dana was admitted to the hospital in May of 2015 for thirty-one days, I experienced one of life’s serious storms. She was pregnant with our youngest son, Luke, and suffered from severe pre-eclampsia. This malady posed a serious risk to her and Luke, and the prognosis was difficult to take. I was worried about the possibility of Luke’s too-early delivery and Dana’s perpetual high blood pressure and stressed organ function. On top of this, I had Andy (11) and Lily (4) who needed me to be strong at home. In short, a personal flood of biblical proportions rose and attacked the house that God’s grace built. In the eye and periphery of this storm, however, I prayed more, loved more, and reached out to family and friends more. I contacted the hospital chaplain to schedule daily Communion for Dana, and I continued to cling to Christ’s love and suffering as a model of hope. In the middle of that trail, God flooded me not with destructive water but with overwhelming grace. And it was God’s grace that strengthened me to be a father and husband of loving action. Through those thirty-one days (and the recovery weeks that followed), I experienced the most amazing spiritual consolation and an almost electrical connectivity in my prayer. Make no mistake, my actions were not my own; they were solely due to grace and my willingness to accept it.

Christ invites us to act in love through his word. And, when we are willing to receive it, he gives us the needed grace to act.  I pray that this week each of us not only listens to Jesus’ words but acts on them in simple moments of self-giving love, and that in the small moments of our day, we reach out to God in prayer, allowing his grace to build up our foundation on his love.