June 2, 2002

Matthew 7:21-29

"Knowing the correct password-saying 'Master, Master,' for instance - isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience - doing what my Father wills. I can see it now - at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'

"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit-but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying-quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

<The Message>


1. So we are not talking head stuff of right assent, but heart stuff of attending to GOD's presence. This is a reversal of the way things seem as those who are most fervent about creedal and literal Bible stuff are often seen as the Christians of the heart while those most involved with social justice issues are seen as idealists living from their heads. This puts things in Jesus' wholly different perspective of the last shall be first and testing the fruit of the spirit so a show of great prayer in front of the altar doesn't outweigh contrite muttering from afar.

2. It is difficult for us to build on these words because, unlike the carpenter who deals with a preconceived plan and cost limitations to stay within, GOD seems to change things at will and turns out to be extravagant in the face of our poor-speak - for instance paying all laborers the same whether they worked 10 hours or 1 hour. To build GOD's way adds a lot more spice to life and asks us to participate in the moment. This throws into question our usual take on the steadiness of the carpenter when Jesus would have us take joyful flights with the homeowner. This takes us deep into trust issues.

3. We need to pay attention to the contrasts in life, those little points of discrepancy between common knowledge and easy reading to the depth Jesus is encouraging in us and the uncommon knowledge of a living GOD interacting with us all along the way.

Or an alternative threesome written later
because I forgot I had written earlier.
How's that for foundational?

A. Which creed do you know by heart? Sounds like there is something more important than getting the words right or having the right church growth program.

Jesus' last teaching before this rant is the so-called "golden rule": "Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get."

Is this or is this not, "foundational"? In how many ways do we avoid this foundation? focusing on right thinking? focusing on right techniques? What is your way of using Jesus and the traditions of the church to avoid doing good?

B. There are two images of surviving a storm - One is to be rock-like (steady and sturdy); one is to be willow-like (flexible and pliable).

Here we have Jesus lauding the rock-builder when one has found a firm foundation at the same time he denigrates those who are inflexible when it comes to their creeds being a false foundation.

Bishop John Shelby Spong talks about a distinction between and experience of GOD and the explanation of that experience. There is a wide gap between experiencing the goodness of GOD being proactive toward us in a golden-rule sort of fashion and turning that golden rule into a knuckle-rapping instrument of "musts" and "shoulds."

May you build on your experience of GOD and not on some beautifully crafted explanation.

C. Even though one might see Jesus as hypocritical because he preached "doing good to" others and then he went on to hurt the feelings of others by letting them know how far short they fall, it is important to note the integrity that lies behind this seeming contradiction.

It is that integrity of life and word that we strive for rather than some foolish consistency which R.W. Emerson described as a hobgoblin of little minds. How is your integrity/consistency ratio these days?

Interested in more about this? Go to http://www.telp.com/philosophy/hobgoblin.htm

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