Building on a Firm Foundation

The text for this sermon is Matthew 7:24, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”  Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon on June 1, 2008, the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

The Story of the Wise and Foolish Builders is a great parable.  It seems especially appropriate that we hear it today when we are baptizing baby Duncan Tiberias Wrightson into a Covenant Relationship with Jesus Christ.  Did you know that Jesus ends his Sermon on the Mount with this parable? That’s important.  As a preacher, I know that the story that I put at the end of my sermon is usually the one that I think is the best one to illustrate what I have been talking about.  So today we are going to concentrate on Jesus’ fervent hope of building on a firm foundation in this life.

 

Some years ago I visited the town of Pisa in Italy and climbed the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It leaned a lot!  In fact  the top of the 185-high tower was 17 feet further south than the base.  I had to be very careful, because the tower not only leaned, the marble flooring had become very smooth and slick from years of wear.  The only thing that was placed there for safety was a thin chain to keep you from falling over the side.  Back in the 1980’s they closed the tower for major repair, and it was reopened in the 1990’s.  Engineers worked on a 25 million dollar renovation project designed to stabilize the tower.  They removed 110 tons of dirt, and reduced the lean by about 16 inches.  Why was this necessary?  Because the tower had been tilting further and further away from vertical for hundreds of years.  Italians authorities concluded that if they did not do something, the tower would keel over.  What caused the lean?  Bad design?  Poor workmanship?  An inferior grade of marble?  No, the problem was what was underneath.  The tower was built on the shifting sands of a former stream that was close enough to the ocean to still have the effects of the tide action underground.  So, the soil was not stable enough to support a building of that size.  The tower had no firm foundation.

 

You may not know this, but the Tower is simply the bell tower of the local cathedral, a fitting reminder for the folks who attend the cathedral that building on sand will incur great cost.

 

People of Resurrection, we too are doing a building project.  This week we watched as the concrete was poured for the floor of the lobby and we watched as the door frames and the block walls of the new lobby were put in place.  In the coming 10 days we expect to have the roof trusses put in place by a giant crane.

 

The basement level of that building really impresses me.  It is so strong that in the event of a hurricane in this area, that is where I would choose to be.  The walls are made of thick, cast concrete.  On top of those heavy duty walls are huge, pre-cast concrete slabs that separate the basement level from the main level.  The reason for having such a heavy-duty building comes from the code requirements for fire safety since we are building a large building that uses well water instead of city water and we are not putting in a sprinkler system.  So, we have a building with a firm foundation.  There is also something else that makes this new building mighty secure.  Last summer at Vacation Bible Camp, we invited all the children and staff to line up along the fence as we did something special.  It was Gene Ernst’s idea.  We placed a cross in the dirt in the middle of the project and we asked God to bless this project and enable us to use it teach and share the good news of Jesus for many generations to come.  The cross and our prayers are a proclamation of our trust that God is in charge of all of this, not us.  Now that is building on a firm foundation!

 

Today Duncan Tiberias Wrightson is here to be baptized.  The sign of the cross will be placed on his forehead.   Promises will be made by parents and godparents and all of us in the household of faith.  The foundation for Duncan’s faith and life is being put in place.  The question for today is what kind of foundation is being established?   The answer may not come for many many years.  Surely the answer will come when Duncan is called upon to meet life’s challenges, when storms will come his way and he will need to endure.  Will he have the foundation that rests on rock or the foundation that rests on sand?

 

St. Paul talks about this foundation in today’s second lesson from his letter to the Romans.  He says affirmatively, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  I hope and prayer that Duncan will never be ashamed of the gospel message of Jesus and he will be bold in declaring his faith.  Paul also says “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.”  I pray that you will provide the means for Duncan to learn all about this faith, not only through your words, but also through your actions and examples.  The power to endure in good times and bad will come from God alone.  Your part as parents and grandparents and godparents is to constantly reassure him of this wonderful and powerful truth. 

 

Thanks be to God.  Amen!

 

Do remember the old-time children’s song?

 

The wise man built his house upon a rock,

The wise man built his house upon a rock,

The wise man built his house upon a rock,

And the rains came tumbling down.

 

The rains came down as the floods came up,

The rains came down as the floods came up,

The rains came down as the floods came up,

And the house of that man stood firm.

 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,

And the rains came tumbling down.

 

The rains came down as the floods came up,

The rains came down as the floods came up,

The rains came down as the floods came up,

And the house of the man went splat.