Dec 2, 2010

Sandy rock or rocky sand?

Mt 7: 21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to 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 buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Here in Oregon we have a town by the name of “Sandy.” No, it isn’t located near the Coast of the Pacific but actually back near the foothills of the Cascade mountains and is built on anything but sandy ground. It’s more likely sitting upon ancient rock and lava flows. But, the name is a curious development because we rarely imagine that rock and sand would be compatible. Sand is rock pulverized into tiny grains. From a builder’s point of view, why would anyone build a house on sand?

That clear image is used by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. He states it is a “fool who built his house on sand.” Yet, for many folks, it’s all about the view. To see the mighty Ocean stretched out in all its’ power from your front room window is a great temptation to build upon that spot. But, even those who build along the coast wisely avoid the beach – they couldn’t do so anyway since the law prevents such construction. While there is plenty of wind and rain in nature, Jesus’ words are a reference to the challenges and tests of faith we often find in our lives.

What is our faith built upon? My emotions which change like the weather? My personal agenda before God? The enjoyment of only the good times in life? When the going gets tough, where do we go? Do we place our head in the sand and just hope it all blows away? Or, do we stand upon the rock of faith – that strength that only God can provide for us. Jesus teaches in Thursday’s Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount to build the houses of our faith on the solid rock of his teachings. If we think life is only about the good times of ease and comfort, we had better quickly change locations before the “winds blow and buffet” our house away. This Advent season is a time to maybe do some remodeling of our life. The bottom line is that despair, hopelessness, life with no meaning or purpose has no place in the life of Christians. Jesus came to bring us hope and to show us where to build our house of faith.

The opening lines of the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer provide some thoughts on this. As humanity wandered around, aimlessly lost in our own self-reliance, thinking we had all the answers to life’s mysteries, God had a solution for our sandy foundations. We hear:

“Again and again you offered a covenant to man, and through the prophets taught him to hope for salvation . . .” God’s desire was to interrupt our lives; to send a savior, a divine architect, who would show us a better place to build:

“Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior . . .”

Sand or rock – wise or foolish – let’s pray this Advent that we check the foundations of our faith and look forward joyfully to some reconstruction.

All powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. (Opening prayer, 1st Sunday of Advent)