Isaiah 42:10-20 Matthew 7:24-29
I roto i te ingoa o te atua, te matua, te tama, me te wairua tapu, amine.
Every time there is a flood or an earthquake there is debate about the building of houses, stormwater drains, culverts, streams.
I am sure the people of Chch had felt their houses were built on rock rather than sand, and that they would always be safe and secure.
Sadly they discovered they were not.
The people of Palestine of Jesus’ time were equally concerned about how their houses were built.
Rain came infrequently but when it came it was often a violent storm.
And so being sure that the houses were on firm rocky ground and not sandy ground was a priority.
But as there were months between rainfalls, you could be excused for getting a little complacent.
Jesus, as usual, takes something from everyday life, an every day concern of the people and turns it into a way of teaching.
This little story about the man who builds his house on the rock is the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount – we have had the Beatitudes, the teaching on love your enemy, teaching on prayer, incl the Lord’s Prayer … and Jesus concludes “Everyone then who hears these words of mine – that is the Sermon on the Mount – and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.
And everyone who hears these words and does not act on them is like a foolish man who builds his house on sand.
We are here at church this morning because we have heard the words of Jesus – we have heard that call and challenge to love our enemy, to be peacemakers, to pray – we have heard the words but have we acted on them? Have we done something about them; have they changed us – is the house of our lives built on rock or on sand?
And how can we tell the difference.
This reading set down for today also happens to be the reading that we chose for my father’s funeral back in 2005.
The Reverend Charles Waldegrave who was the preacher at the funeral spoke about the kind of qualities that the man who built his house on the rock might have.
He spoke about them in the context of my father’s life but they apply to us all – he spoke of being a person of compassion, of integrity, of acting with others’ interests at heart, of building your life on prayer and worship.
My father never attended bible study groups or a prayer group but he attended church every week - I described him as a very economic Christian – eucharist and a good sermon were enough to set him up for the week.
And he acted on what he heard – he looked out for others at work, he volunteered in community activities, he grew vegetables so he could give them away, he had a great sense of humour, he was quiet and gentle, and yet very firm and clear in his beliefs, his politics.
And Charles said while he certainly built his house on the rock of faith and family and community he would be the first to help his neighbour whose house turned out to be built on sand.
That was an aspect of this parable I had never really thought about. I had read it as two opposing or contrasting positions – rock vs sand and never the twain shall meet.
And yet of course would Jesus not be the first to say – how will you act towards the person whose house is built on sand.
Will you stand by and say – well you should have built on rock – I did – why didn’t you? or – fancy not taking out insurance – what a fool – or will you go across and say – come and stay at my house tonight, there is room for you.
So the dichotomy and division of this story falls away.
Yes we should build our houses our lives on rock – on the rock of faith, of whanau, of community, of love, prayer, compassion – in order that we might reach across the flood waters and invite our neighbour to bed down for the night.
And then share something of what we know and what we have with them.
Today we celebrate our partnership as tikanga, and te pouhere, the constitution of our church.
We celebrate the work our church, and the work our forbears have done to build the haahi, and to give us the best foundation for our life as church.
We honour the many years of prayer and work which gives us our church today.
We give thanks that we can partner together as neighbours and family across the separations of culture and nations.
The prophet Isaiah warns us that there are those who do not see and do not hear what the whole of creation is witness to – that the Lord is God and the mountains and the seas bear witness to God’s glory.
And God will cry out in frustration, like a woman in labour, at the indifference of the people who turn away and do not care.
We celebrate our partnership today because we share a faith in the one God, the creator of all, the son who redeems us and the spirit who dwells in each one of us, te matua, te tama me te wairua tapu.
I will always think of my father when I read this passage and give thanks for the rock of faith that he built our family on.
You will all have models of faith you look to as well – whether whanau or other people in your lives.
Give thanks for them today, for our tipuna in faith and for our church.