Last term my son learnt the following story in RE at school, and had to perform it in an assembly:
24 “So then, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man. He builds his house on the rock. 25 The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. But it does not fall. It is built on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man. He builds his house on sand. 27 The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. And it falls with a loud crash.”
My son’s line was something like, “So everyone who makes wise choices and does the right thing is a wise builder.” I love my children’s school – I almost couldn’t love it more. But do you see what they did there? They took Jesus’ very clear statement, “everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice” and changed it to the ambiguous and vague, “everyone who makes wise choices and does the right thing.” This is less offensive to a mixed audience.
When a storm comes – or a virus that empties the streets and fills up all the hospitals – we find out if we’ve been a wise of a foolish builder. I’m a bit like one of the three little pigs, and the wolf is here – but which pig am I? Did I use straw, sticks or bricks? Will my house fall down?
Going back to Jesus’ parable, I wonder if you feel that your foundations have been shaken. What are you building your life upon? Whose words are you putting into practice? Where does your security lie?
There all kinds of things we can put out trust in. Things we think will keep us safe and secure and happy:
I can trust in the security and freedom that money can offer.
I can trust in my relationships with family or friends to keep me safe and happy.
I can trust in my children’s education to give them everything they could hope for.
I can trust in scientific advances and modern medicine to give me a long and happy life.
I can trust in my good planning – my next holiday, my next house-move, my new kitchen, to give me hope and a future. These things can give me satisfaction as I daydream about them and count down the days.
But every once in a while, a storm comes. This might be the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job. It might be a rejection letter or an ash cloud or an image, a growing blemish on a scan. And these things can make us wonder whether we’ve been building our house on sand. When the unexpected storm comes, does my house come crashing down?
These storms, though terrifying, can be an incredible mercy from God if they show us that all this time we’ve been building on sand. Because there’s still time to rebuild.
We’re living in the kind of storm that comes along less than once in a generation. It’s affecting everyone. The rain is coming down and the water is rising. The wind is blowing and beating against our houses.
Our investments have crashed and we might lose our jobs or take pay cuts. I can’t see my friends and family in ‘real life’ for weeks, probably months. The schools have closed and the exams are cancelled. And even the best medicine can’t save everyone from this virus. These things we were depending upon have turned out to be not so certain after all.
I don’t know if you believe in God, and if so whether you feel angry with him about all of this. But while I know this is devastating for many of us, can I suggest to you that God might be trying to show you something? Perhaps it’s time to build your house on something – or someone – that can withstand any storm.
Jesus can take us through the worst storm imaginable, because he went through worse for you and for me, and came out safely on the other side. He can take us through death and bring us out of it with a new body, in paradise.
When we all come out of hiding, will we be changed? This Easter is surely a good time to hear Jesus out. Let’s find out what his words are and see if we think it’s time to put them into practice.
If you don’t have a church or your church isn’t streaming services, can I recommend my brother’s Easter Sunday service to you? He knows this is hard, he’s been through storms himself, and he’d love to tell you about the hope that Jesus offers this Easter. You can find it here at 11am on Sunday, or catch up afterwards if you’ve got plans then(!) If you click on the link now there’s a friendly little message from him waiting for you.
The rain is coming down and the water is rising. The wind is blowing and beating against our houses. But there is hope this Easter.