2 Kings 24: 8-17
Matthew 7: 21-end
‘The rules of survival’
May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Well here we are, all the excitement of Christmas and the passion of Easter are behind us for another year, we know this because the church is back in green. Green is the colour of growing things, plants, trees and crops. In the church year this is supposed to be a time of slow but steady spiritual growth, when we reflect on what we have learned from the recent festivals, and how we can put them into practice by living the kind of life that Jesus wants’ us to live. Before us are those long hot lazy days of summer – or that’s what I remember them to be when I was a child. Long hot lazy days that seemed to last forever; golden sand, blue sea and friendships that we thought would last forever.
Those hot and lazy summer days of my youth seem very far removed from world we live in today. Unfortunately we cant turn the clock back, and if you look back and long for that more peaceful life, free from the stresses of today, I am sorry to tell you that in the real world we live in today there is no such thing. There is said to be an old Chinese curse, where you wish your enemy, ‘May you live in interesting times!’ Unfortunately for us that’s what we live in –‘Interesting Times’.
So where should we turn for help in surviving ‘Interesting times’, well of course we need look no further than Jesus teaching because as so often before, he has the answer. In today’s reading Jesus tells the story of two houses, one with firm foundations, built on rock, and one with no foundations at all, just resting on sand. The outcome is predictable, but Jesus is telling us to survive the tempestuous times we live in we all need firm foundations in our lives. And the best foundations of all are to found in the teachings of Jesus.
Some people like to live dangerously. They go in for hazardous sports – mountain climbing, free fall parachuting or white water rafting. But even these have strict rules if you wish to survive, and people are careful to abide by the safety procedures. But the rules for coping with the risks of everyday life are to listen to Jesus’s teaching, hear his words and obey them. William Barclay, in The Daily Study Bible, tells the story of a group of sailors whose officer suddenly shouted ‘Lie down!’ What he could see, but they couldn’t, was that a steel cable had parted. Those that obeyed were saved, those that didn’t weren’t! Our obedience to the words of Jesus must be as instant as that. There will be nothing gained on the day of judgement by standing in front of Our Lord and saying ‘I didn’t know did I’ because you did and you do, it is all here in the Bible – the rules of survival.
Living the Christian life means risking all for God. There is an exhilaration which comes from not knowing where we shall go or what may happen to us if we are faithful to Christ. Yet God has taken a risk too, in giving us free will, for even God does not know whether we shall misuse our freedom, that is what comes with freedom our right to choose which path to take. Canon Vanstone wrote a book called ‘Loves Endeavour, Love’s Expense’, about the risks God takes in creating us. The author starts with the image of a potter shaping a vase, holding his breath in case the vase becomes misshapen, willing it to ‘come out right’. Being a parent is a bit like that, he says: watching your children learn from their mistakes, teaching them the rules that at least mitigate disasters, but knowing that they will never grow up and mature if you forbid them from ever taking risks. Then God our Father must feel much the same, as he watches us misusing the freedom that he has given us, all to often building our metaphorical houses without foundations on beds of sand. But there is no way he can prevent us hurting ourselves time and time again without taking away our free will. So God bites His tongue, holds His breath as He watches to see whether we will falter or fall, or whether we will resist temptation and follow the rules for our survival as laid down by Jesus.
But rest assured that if you do, when the time comes that the tempest of life is raging at your door God will make sure you are safe and sound, resting on the firm foundations built by listening to and obeying the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some thoughts for you as, hopefully, we enter the long hot lazy days of summer.