Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
Matthew chapters 5-7 are known as the Sermon on the Mount. Nothing but red letters. That is, the only voice we hear is that of Jesus. Nothing but red letters, the most concentrated setting of teachings by Jesus in all of the Gospels. Most of us know this section begins with the Beatitudes… “Blessed be the poor… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” (isn’t that an interesting thought in these days of power mongering) and so it goes. Most of us have some passing acquaintance with the Beatitudes. But with what teaching does Jesus conclude the Sermon on the Mount?
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Mt 7:24-27
So, Jesus has strung together a massive amount of teachings, “You are the salt of the earth;” admonitions, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses the Pharisees… you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven;” an absolute upside down theology, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;” and parable, see the above. Jesus ends it all with words that are both obvious (only an idiot builds a house on sand), and metaphoric. What is this business about house building? Why in the world would Jesus conclude these central critical Gospel truths with this seemingly innocuous parable?
Everything in the Sermon on the Mount is about relationships. Relationships with God, one another, and with ourselves. The house being built is a metaphor for relationships.
Jesus sums up the entire Sermon on the Mount with this image: if your relationships are built upon the rock of Jesus, you will withstand every assault. If your relationships are built upon your good intentions, your political dispositions, your economic philosophy or your social bias, your relationships are doomed to fall short of your hopes. They will fail. Everything in Matthew 5-7 is about our building enduring Kingdom of God relationships. Maybe it’s time to reread these chapters. Tell me if I am wrong.
The pandemic, political discourse, social upheaval, et al, are about dividing us. These, and more, are trying to tear our house (our relationships) down. When our house is built on the Rock of Jesus, we endure. Together. We are the church that Jesus prayed for in John 17… “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it… may they be one that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The evil one would tear our house down, destroy our life together, thereby destroying our witness to an unbelieving world. The strength of our house is dependent not on “red” versus “blue,” not rich versus poor, not black versus white. The strength of our house is in Jesus our rock foundation, and in our embracing the red letters, listening to his voice alone. It is our building code of sorts.
A thousand years before Jesus, King Solomon, in a moment of humility owning his own brokenness, penned these words in the first verse of Psalm 127… “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor, labor in vain.” Sounds kind of familiar, don’t you think?
Trinity Lutheran is a powerful beacon, an amazing witness, to a disbelieving world precisely because its members refuse to build their houses on the sand of false rhetoric, political diﬀerences, social standing, or blasphemous teachings contrary to the red letters. Trinity Lutheran is a strong house and the world is blessed because of it. I am grateful beyond words for such a community of faith. Thank you for this life we share together, God bless you and all those we serve.
Pastor Tom Kidd