Sermon: Ordinary 9, Year A

preached at Holy Trinity Church, Gosport 1st June 2008

Text: Matthew 7:21-27

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Builder’s Jargon, taken from my all-time favourite radio show: I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

This needs pointing
This needs pointing the other way

We could start Monday
Pick any Monday and you’d be wrong

Make Good
Disguise cock-up

A Quotation
One eighth of the final price

You’ll notice there are a few differences from the drawings
We had the plans upside down

African Orange would suit this room
I have a bucket load of it in the van

It’ll be a feature
It’ll be an eyesore

Don’t you worry, you won’t know we’re there
They won’t be there

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Unlike our dodgy builders of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, unlike those cowboys whose antics fill our consumer-based television programmes, Christ actually knows what he is talking about, and makes plain to us a model for life, for living and for loving that is completely grounded in our understanding: we all know that for a building to be firm and long-lasting it needs a foundation, we all know that no matter how fine the materials used to build it, if it is in a vulnerable location (like a flood plain) then it will itself be vulnerable.

If we know this… If we understand this… how come we are so bad at making the right choices in our lives? How come we always seeks the short cut, the quick fix, the cheap deal and end up in a state of complete collapse like the foolish man who loses everything?

We know what should form our firm foundation, but it does us know harm to be reminded of them, for they are the very foundations, the very tenets of our faith.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Firstly, Prayer
The lifeblood of the Christian life is Prayer. Without prayer, without time spent in the presence of the Almighty, then our faith is little more than a social habit. Prayer may be private, or it may be collective, for example at Mass; but it should be regular. The daily mass is the sustenance of faith, being fed in word and sacrament, prayer and ritual and brought closer to the heart of God through his blessed sacraments. Prayer does not have to be the “hands together, eyes closed” list of wants taught in Infant School, but is an active awareness of the presence of God, a worshipful encounter with the sacred, a moment (and it might only be a moment) of stillness in a busy day. Prayer should not be measured by quantity, but by quality; and might be found as easily walking to the ferry as on your knees during Benediction.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Scripture
is the second core foundation of faith. The use of God’s Holy Word teaches us so much. The Word of God is Christ himself “In the beginning was the Word”, and the Bible is the word of God caught in aspic in a particular moment in time by a particular culture and age. It must not therefore be taken as God’s final word on the matter, for the Holy Spirit continues to work through Holy Mother Church and through the Saints and even today to continue to reveal the meaning and the truth of Christ. We must be careful therefore to read our bibles with an awareness of context and culture, and to see what is of God, and is timeless and immortal, and what is of man, and shows our folly, our hardness of heart, our inability to follow Him or respond to His love.

In the poetry of the Psalms, the urgency of Paul’s letters, the powerful wierdness of the Revelation to St John the Divine and the beauty of John the Evangelist’s Gospel, we see a loving God reaching out to us through time and space. We see the mistakes of God’s people and his relentless, continued loving forgiveness. We read of our failings, and how the Incarnation of Jesus Christ seeks to overcome those failings through the power of the Cross.

Through Scripture, a little bit a day, heard at Mass or read in Private Study we follow a journey through which the whole of the Church continues to journey, and we come to know the God who seeks us, even when we are far off.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Next, we ought to seek an Engagement
with the world and the role of the Kingdom of God within it. This means that besides the reading of Scripture, we should be reading other works which stimulate and challenge our faith, and thus make it stronger.

Our faith, based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason, is one that must be fed by all three, and so we are called to encounter a wide range of stimulus, from both inside and outside our faith.

This does not necessarily mean ‘religious books’ although that is very valuable, but in addition we should be reading a proper newspaper, we should be reading commentary and analysis on world events from a wide range of perspectives, we should be reading blogs and other sources of information and comment on the world; we should be reading classic fiction through from Ancient Greece and the latest works of literature: all of which can help us shape our own faith-based world view: not to be consoled and coddled, but challenged and made to think.

Embryology, Human Rights, Equality and Fairtrade, Science and Politics are issues that Christians should engage in, and not just in a knee-jerk fashion that some Churches expect of us (The Church of Rome springs very much to mind in this sphere). It is not my role to tell you what to think, but my role to call you to think.

Too often, Christians hide behind others and other people’s interpretations rather than seeking to engage with the issues of the day, and yet when they do, they are powerful agents for change and the source of the abolition of slavery, the end of apartheid, the gaining of equality for women in many walks of life.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Social Justice
This engagement in the world leads us therefore to make a difference in the world: to engage in activities of Social Justice, in works of Mission and Evangelism based on a confidence in God’s calling and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The building of the kingdom on earth is not just your parish priest’s responsibility, not just the Readers or the Churchwarden’s, but the responsibility of all of us, and an integral part of our baptism.

There is not a single person in this church who does not have a positive contribution to make to the Kingdom of God, who cannot touch the life of another, and make a difference. There is no-one too old, too poor, too tired, too sinful or too young to do their bit to spread the Good News of Christ, to free the captive, to help the blind to see or the lame to walk.

You may not be in the mould of a Saint, but Christ did not call Saints to build the Kingdom of God, he called ordinary people like you and I, and through doing that, they became Saints.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

So: Prayer, Scripture, Engagement and Social Action form a foundation which is not overwhelmed by the traumas of this life. Unlike many of the Evangelical Preachers on US television, I cannot promise you a life of bliss and milk and honey just for believing: life remains hard, life remains a challenge, and redemption and grace are works of a lifetime, not just a single prayer acting like a magic wand to make things better.

Life will always have its challenges: jobs will be lost, parents will die, cancer will happen and the undeserving will appear to prosper. That is life. The Psalmist knew that, and it is as true to today as it always has been; but faith in Christ is not supposed to shield you from life, rather it is faith in Christ which enables you to deal with all that life throws at you.

Padre (now Saint) Pio told his congregation: “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. We should take that to heart, and with the foundations of prayer, scripture, engagement with the world and social action, you can take whatever life has to throw at you.

Build your house on solid rock, and when the floods come, as they surely must, you will be secure.

Amen