Building on the Rock
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 7:24-27
June 28, 2020

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - Confirmation Sunday

So its confirmation Sunday. This is always a special day in our Christian community here at Emmanuel. It is a special day in the lives of our dear confirmands, although they may find it more nerve wracking right now and stressful than special. But I hope and pray dear confirmands that you grow in the specialness of this day as your life moves on.

It is also a special day for you parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, of our confirmands. You have seen these young people grow as the individuals they are, and now with respect to their walk with Christ and Christ’s people. And you have been so instrumental in their growth and walk, and you can reflect and rejoice lovingly in the gift and blessing they are to you, to all of us, from our Father in heaven.

Jesus speaks to us today about wise building. He talks in the metaphor of building a house, though He is not ultimately talking to us about building houses. He is talking to us about building our lives, about the foundation we build on.

This building involves questions like these. What do we believe about God and ultimate things and where does that come from? What is our ultimate hope based on and how do we hope to get there? Where do we get our understanding of right and wrong and how is our value system set up? How do you understand yourself and where does that understanding come from? How do you understand the world and your place in it or in relation to it as a Christian, and in terms of your work and calling in life, and what does God have to do with it?

What defines and shapes us as a community of faith, what we believe, what we teach, how we go about our business? How do you and I find the unfailing grace of God, the inexhaustible love and mercy of God, how do we find absolutely trustworthy forgiveness from God, which then can also be the foundation of reconciliation with each other?

How do we find the encouragement that speaks to us in our fear and anxiety; the assurance, the absolutely reliable promise, that God is with us even when it feels like He isn’t, or when it seems that He couldn’t possibly be with us because of what may be happening to us in this world and life? How do we have communion with the Holy Spirit?

In relation to these questions, Jesus speaks to us today about building our lives upon His words. The immediate context in Matthew’s Gospel indicates that Jesus’s words are those He spoke in the sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. But it is more than that. His words are those that He spoke on many occasions. They also involve what He has done and the message of hope and reconciliation that stems from it. He has given all of this to us through the Apostles and prophets in the Holy Scriptures. So He talks to us today about building our lives upon the Scriptures.

Now Jesus is speaking to you and me. He is not speaking to that world out there or that other person you could have in mind. He speaks to you and me. That world out there goes the way it goes. How to relate to it as Christians and a Christian community is a very important question that we need to talk about on other occasions. Today, Jesus, however, speaks to you and me about how we build our lives. For we march to the beat of a different drum.  

In addition, He wants me, He wants you, not only to hear but to do. He wants us to take His words into our minds and hearts so that they create, sustain, and inspire our faith in God and Jesus; so that we find clear and truthful teaching about right and wrong; so that we find our hope and destiny before God in the saving work of Jesus Christ, which does not fail. Jesus wants us to take His words into our minds and hearts so that they affect our morals, our values, the way we view ourselves, and our conduct, in the direction and ways God’s word teaches. The Holy Spirit will do this work in us as we take this approach to Jesus’s words.

So Jesus wants us to build our lives on His words because this is like building on a rock. He tells us the truth about God, ourselves, and the world. His words do not fail us, though the world does not understand.

Jesus illustrates this wonderfully for us in the parable of the person who built his or her house upon the rock, and the person who built his or her house upon the sand. The one who built on the rock was wise, because he or she built on the solid foundation of Jesus’s words. The one who built on the sand was foolish because it does not turn out so well building a house on sand.

Now imagine this. Imagine a mountainous countryside in a climate where it doesn’t rain much in the summertime. The rainy season is from November to March. In summer, riverbeds can dry out. And rainfall when it occurs often happens in powerful storms that drop a lot of rain in a hurry.

Now imagine a thunderstorm that drops an inch of rain in a short amount of time. I think you know what is going to happen. Those dried up riverbeds are going to be suddenly full of water. They become a raging river.

Get to high ground. Climb up on the rocks on either side of the riverbed, or you’ll get swept away.

We can see that Jesus has this in mind if we take into account the terrain and climate of Palestine, and then take into account a particular word in Greek in vv. 25 and 27. The ESV uses the English word “floods” in those verses. There is generally nothing wrong with that in a generic sense. But Jesus uses the word for river.

Jesus says that the rains came down and then the rivers came.

Why talk about the rivers coming? Well because when the downpour comes, those dry river beds become suddenly filled with water. And then it matters a great deal where one has built the house.

The person who is wise builds his or her house on the rock above the riverbed. The other person builds his or her house on the sand in the riverbed. This person must have built in the summer time when the riverbed is all dried up. The foolish person cannot see beyond the moment, the now. Right now there is no danger in building there.

But then the rains come down and the rivers come. The house on the rock is not threatened by the raging torrent. The house on the sand is right in the way of it. The winds blow against the house on the rock and it stands. The winds blow against the house on the sand and it comes crashing down. It gets swept away in the raging river.

Building on the rock is like building one’s life on Jesus’s words, with respect to the many things they speak to us about. Building on the sand is like building on some other foundation, that is not really a foundation at all.

Here is Jesus’s point: be wise and build on the rock, on what He teaches, on Jesus Himself. Peter professed about Jesus: “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, the assembly, the community of My people. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Mat. 16:16, 18).

Dear Christians, dear confirmands, let us build upon Jesus’s words for our lives. For then we are building on the foundation that does not give way when the storm comes: the storm of temptation, where you need to find clarity about right and wrong; the storm of sin, where you need to find the grace of God; the storm of the difficult and painful things that can happen in life, where you need to find the assurance of the faithfulness of God and His strength to see you through in the grace and mercy of Christ.

To do this building let us be students of Jesus’s words and teaching. And let us be faithful in being attentive to the Word of God and Christ’s sacrament, taught and administered here, so we know how to believe and know how to build on Jesus’s words. And, by God’s grace, let us be used by Him to be a blessing to others so they too can build with us on Jesus’s words and be delivered from the raging river.

Amen.



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