The chosen hymns for this week,We Are One and Lord bless You can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Matthew 7: 24-27
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday for 4th October.
Sunday 22nd of March the church had its first service online as we were in lockdown.
The world has changed so much since then.
And our lives are different.
We always have a mask in our pocket.
We have to make special arrangements if we want to meet up with family.
You may buy your shopping online now.
Family get-togethers are done by Zoom.
Our world has changed so much.
And some folk want things just to go back to the way they used to be.
Others wonder if we will ever get back to something like it used to be.
How are we supposed to cope with all that change?
Our reading today is one of the smallest parables that Jesus spoke, but I feel one of the most profound. We will be seeing how Jesus’ words can help us as we realise that this new normal is going to last a lot longer than any of us thought
John: Reading Matthew 7: 24-27
I suspect I have always misunderstood this parable.
To me this parable was about the good guys and the bad guys.
The good guys built their house upon a rock, a solid foundation. The storm comes and nothing can shake that house.
The bad guys built their house on sand. The storm comes and the floods come and the house on the sand is swept away.
It’s a simple parable with a simple question, ‘Are you one of the good guys or one of the bad guys?’
If you are one of the good guys you know it because the storms hit your life and you are fine.
If you are one of the bad guys then you better watch out because when the storms come you will know about it as well.
But then a storm hit us in March, well less a storm and more a tidal wave, and no matter who you were your house was swept away.
And that is when I started to reflect on this parable differently.
Like have you ever wondered that neither of the men starts off with a house?
Once you realise that the whole parable changes its ethos.
Maybe this parable should have started;
‘There was once a storm so bad that every house was shaken, every house was washed away. Everyone was in crisis and had to work out what to do next...’
Isn’t that where we were?
So what do we do in that situation?
Well we do what we can.
We have decisions to make.
What are our priorities?
There is this clever guy called Henry Cloud who talks about the difference between technical change and adaptive change and the problems that come when we get these two things mixed up.
Technical change is when we have a problem that has a simple solution, where we need to go from A to B.
An example would be, we have a leak in our plumbing. We need to fix the leak, get in a plumber and everything goes back to normal.
There is one clear solution and life doesn’t change much.
Adaptive change is very different. There are multiple answers and no clear solution.
We do not go back to normal at the end of it, we create a new normal.
An example would be, we have left school and now we are in the big bad world. We can get a job, we can go to college or university, we can sit in our room and play computer games or...and the list goes on.
There is no one clear solution, there are many solutions and every single one of them leads to a new normal.
And that is where these two men in the parable now come in.
There has been a problem, they got divorced, there was a tsunami that washed away their house, they were made redundant and got kicked out of their rented accommodation.
Something huge has happened and they are homeless.
The first guy treats this like technical change.
It is a simple problem with a simple solution. We just need to get through the next wee bit and we will be fine. There is no need for the trouble of foundations, we don’t have time for foundations because the crisis is upon us. We need quick solutions. How will we have shelter for tonight?
Do you remember those first few weeks of lockdown?
They were crazy.
People had to decide what their greatest priority was, and their greatest priority was toilet paper. Nobody knew why, but for some reason we all needed lots and lots and lots of toilet paper.
And flour, you couldn’t get flour for anything.
Maybe they were taking this parable literally and building paper Mache houses to feel safe in.
It seems silly now.
You can imagine people in their homes feeling smug because they have 96 rolls of toilet paper. The world is going to be OK. Because they had managed to get their hands on toilet paper and the rest of the world would suffer.
Only it wasn’t Ok.
So what should we do?
We need to be like the second man in the parable.
He sees the problem as something that needs adaptive change.
And we have many of these times in our lives.
We lose our job, we find out we are critically ill, we need to move house to look after a relative, we get divorced or our spouse dies or our children move from home; they all are big problems that have many solutions and will leave us with a new normal.
So the first thing we do is decide on our foundation.
And that foundation shouldn’t be money, or material things or even God. ‘God’ as a vague concept as just as fluid and weak foundation to build our lives in as money and things.
Our foundations should be something more concrete (if you forgive the pun), like our relationship with God, our relationship with others.
On those foundations we can build a structure; that structure is, ‘What are we going to do to create that relationship with God?’
Are we going to have a quiet time during the day, are we going to dedicate some of our time to helping others, are we going to find a mentor who we can check in with every now and again to make sure we aren’t drifting, are we going to study parts of scripture with others, are we going to go on retreats?
If our foundation is going to be relationships with others then what structures are we going to build on that foundation to make sure it happens? What routines are we going to put in place to keep those relationships strong? Are we going to have a regular time that we phone them, are we going to arrange times that we walk together or go out for lunch together?
It is on those structures that we create, that we make routines and plans and choices.
Then once we have done that, we have control.
Once we have control we feel peace, we feel secure.
So a simple parable, but very profound.
It just so happens that it is where we are.
We are in the middle of a crisis that has taken away the foundations we had and left us wondering what to do.
We could just patch things up, deal with the immediate, like buying toilet paper and flour, hoping that the crisis will go away. But the danger in that is that another crisis may come and all we have is our paper Mache house to protect us.
Or we can seriously consider on what foundations we will build our lives on, and then create the structures on top of those foundations so that we have something that can last when the next crisis comes.
So what will it be?
There is no doubt our world has been rocked and what we had was taken away from us.
Wishing things would go back to normal isn’t going to help us.
When our house is wrecked and nothing is left but rubble just wishing the house was still there isn’t going to make the house reappear.
And patching up things will help a wee bit, but won’t give us the structures in life that make us feel secure when the next lot of problems come.
Decide on what foundations you want to build your life on, and then build a strong structure on those foundations. Organise, plan, structure, build something secure, and then we might find the security and peace we have lost.
Let us pray.
Every one of us had our foundations shatter.
It was quite frightening how vulnerable we felt.
How low we got at times.
At times our faith felt a bit shaky.
As we hid in the darkness, as we struggled with the uncertainty, you were there, asking for your relationship to be the foundation on which our faith could be sustained.
Help us in the days ahead.
No matter what we may face in the future, may we face it with assurance that you are with us.
Knowing this may we in our silence give thanks for those times you have helped us.
May we also give to you those people we know who are struggling and need a rock of faith to cling onto just now.
All these prayer we give in thanks.
And in thanks and in unity we say together the prayer of hope that your son gave us;
Which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil;
For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever.
Until next time...
Remember you can book a place for next week’s service any week night after 6pm.
May we have the strong peace of the Father in our lives.
May we have the strong purpose of the Son in our lives.
May we have the strong commitment of the Spirit in our lives.