"Hear it, Know it, Say it, but also Do it"
A Sermon based on Matthew 7:21- 29
The text Dottie Haase read for us this morning is the conclusion of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” – a sermon which occupies three whole chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. (!) My sermons over these past four Sundays in Lent have discussed Jesus’ sermon... things like the list of Beatitudes which indicate the kind of “identity” Jesus looks for in his followers: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, & those who mourn... blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, & the persecuted.” I know you know all that stuff! You’ve heard it all before!
I’m not going to take the time this morning to review the issues that Jesus addressed in his Sermon – such things as his low opinion of calling people “fool”, of adultery & of divorce; his call for us to be boldly different, like salt and light in the world (because people see who we are by what we do!); to never hate or hold grudges, never indulge in anger, but be the first to reach out a hand in reconciliation; to practice clear, straight-forward speech, where “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no”; his desire that we reject revenge and not take retaliation against one’s enemies – but instead we should love our enemies... and pray for those who persecute us, and turn the other cheek, and go the second mile… oh, and yes, we should stop judging our neighbors. But, again, I know that you know all that already! You’ve heard it lots’a times in church.
I won’t even get into Jesus’ famous “Golden Rule” about doing to others what you would have them do to you -- if the situation were reversed… if the shoe was on the other foot (so to speak). (!)
No, I’m just going to skip all that and start my sermon this morning with the very last thing that Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount... Hear again his stirring conclusion -- his ultimate punch-line -- the last words that hung in the air on those hills in Galilee...
“The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell -- and great was the fall of it!”
Uh-oh..! It fell? The house collapsed? Is that any way to end a sermon?? What a downer! bummer! I’m not sure Jesus would’ve gotten a passing grade in any of my preaching classes with an ending like that!
Jesus concluded his sermon not on a high point of faith, but with the tragic picture of a Hurricane! It’s an image of rain falling on the Galilean mountainside and rushing down swollen rivers of mud to meet the rising flood-waters. This is not at all a happy picture! It’s what we saw just last week flooding the Great Plains – Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, as well as Southeast Africa: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique. “The rain fell and the floods came,and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell ... great was its fall!”
Years ago, I went to Honduras with ten members of the UCC & the Disciples of Christ and (together with our Honduran work partners) built a half-dozen houses in a banana plantation for families who had lost everything in Hurricane Mitch. We did not build on the ground, nor on a slab; unlike the workers in Jesus’ parable, we built neither upon sand nor upon rock. We built them on stilts! Each floor was set upon nine concrete pilings imbedded in the earth...
We hope that the houses on stilts will be above the waterline when the river floods again. It is our hope that each one-room second-floor house is so well-balanced on those nine concrete & rebar columns so that it will not blow over in a s