Showing items filed under “Paige Hanks”

A Wise Man Builds on Rock and a Foolish Man Builds on Sand

A Wise Man Builds on Rock and a Foolish Man Builds on Sand

Matthew 7:24-27

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 

Luke 6:47-49

I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”

"If I wanted to have a happy garden, I must ally myself with my soil; study and help it to the utmost, untiringly. Always, the soil must come first."

-  Marion Cran, If I Were Beginning Again

When a parable appears in more than one gospel text, it can be intended as a significant and important message for the followers of Christ.  Jesus used parables as teaching tools for his Jewish followers who were trying to understand a new and somewhat confusing way of understanding who Jesus was and what it would mean to be a follower and disciple of Christ.  That we have these two parables recorded by the evangelists in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke helps to clarify the parable’s meaning as conveyed through their distinct styles. The evangelists in both gospels write to give authority to Jesus early in his ministry, after he spent time in the desert and gathered his earliest disciples.  Christ’s divine authority would be necessary for the followers to understand as they joined in ministry with Jesus and by doing so, entered unfamiliar territory peppered with unfettered criticism and even looming danger.

Matthew’s version of this parable appears in the text immediately following the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus is teaching about the way of life necessary to be a follower of Christ.  In that famous selection, the door is cracked and a peek at Jesus’s authority of God is visible with close study.  The parable shapes a brief yet powerful image of God’s will for God’s people, embedding into that imagery the authoritative nature of God and therefore of Jesus Christ.  And once you can know Christ, then you are compelled to follow Christ.  This would have been an unveiling of a newer view of who Jesus was as holding the authority of God, and happened when he was still quite early in his ministry.  That authority is strong like a rock, not a shifting or uneven or fleeting authority and it will be on that rock that the church itself will be built. And Jesus makes clear that hearing and following any other authority than that of Christ’s is foolish indeed.

Luke’s rendition of this parable is absent any indicator of who is wise and who is foolish, and adds to Matthew’s reference to building on rock by hearing and following Christ.  This evangelist chooses to include the meaning of rock as the foundation for building one’s house, a concept that would have been foreign to those living in ancient Palestine where building any building on solid footing would have been a challenge.  This is significant to note, because what Jesus was teaching was quite different than what these believers were accustomed to hearing, and imagery like this would have been more impactful to them then it might be to modern day home dwellers who understand that building a strong house on a strong foundation is a given. The Greek understanding of this usage of foundation is that it is something that is physically laid down.  Luke’s addition of this description is helpful in understanding that there is a physical response to hearing Christ’s words and then acting upon them, and in doing so, making your faith stronger and shoring oneself up against the storms of a raging river that each of us is bound to encounter in our life’s journey.

The wise words above from Marion Cran come out of years of tending her garden and the wisdom she gained and shared in her role as the first gardening radio broadcaster in Great Britain.  Cran spent her life doing important work for the British government in the early 20th century, and it would not be a stretch to think that this quote from her love of gardening influenced her work beyond just biological soil.  For us who read this parables, Cran’s quote is helpful to understand the fundamental teaching of these two parables.  Allying oneself to the soil is another way to imagine hearing the teaching of Jesus Christ and then inhabiting that teaching ourselves, putting those teachings first and foremost in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.  It’s impossible to go wrong when we adhere to Christ’s teachings.  No river or rains, no floods or winds, cannot be overcome by the power of Christ Jesus.

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What are the Commandments Taught by Christ?

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The political and cultural climate of the United States in the late 1960s was tumultuous. The country was at war, both militarily as well as symbolically. Lines were drawn and mistrust abounded; doubt in the ability of government to make appropriate decision lurked everywhere, unrest was sending a shiver through the local communities and record inflation was on the horizon. Then in 1967, the Beatles released their hit song, “All You Need is Love.” The lyrics were simple and the melody easy to sing; perhaps the song was even an attempt to provide an antidote to the state of discontentment. But even within the “flower power” movement, it was not a time where love came easy for anyone.

In Christian theology, it can be easy to quip that the answer is always love, and this can apply to just about any question you ask about God and the world. As simple as Lennon’s lyrics are in this hit song, love is far from simple, at least not the kind of love that Christ taught during his ministry that transformed the world. In the gospel of John, we find Jesus explaining his commandment to the disciples.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.  John 15:12-17

This text can be closely linked to the commandments from Jesus on love found in the gospel of Matthew.

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 22: 36-40 

Being loved is one of the most basic of human needs. Food, water and shelter might keep you alive, but you cannot truly live without love. Jesus’ disciples are just like the rest of us, looking to Christ to understand how to live out our faith in the world. They were asking Jesus to unlock the code, give them the playbook and show them the way within their new Jewish paradigm. They were like high schoolers quizzing the teacher about an exam, wanting to know what was going to be on the test so they could make sure to study the right material. But it just isn’t that simple. Love is just not that simple.

Jesus commands us to love. Love God. Love one another. Love ourselves. The love Jesus is talking about is agape love, God’s way of loving us. Do not confuse this form of love with the common human ways of love such as the kind typically shown to friends and significant others.[i] What Jesus is NOT teaching is that we should have different kinds of love; our love of God and our love of one another should not be different at all. We should love one another and God as passionately, deeply and sacrificially as Christ loves us. And that is where the rubber meets the road.

Love is an action word. The feelings we get when we feel love for someone are simply a symptom or an indicator, a sign of love rather than the entirety of the love itself. When we love as Christ commands us, we look at that person as Christ would, seeing Christ embodied within that person, that neighbor, that stranger, that friend, and that enemy. And when we can do that, we can respond with love to their needs. We can freely feed the hungry, willingly part with our money for the poor, and lift up in love those that have been relegated to the margins by our loveless view of the world existing beyond the comfort and safety of our surroundings. Our protective circles of friends and family often prevent us from doing the very thing that Jesus commands us to do, so must seek out ways to find and respond to the cries of the needy. Seeing the world afresh with a Christ-like perspective allows us to forgive those who have wronged us, find common ground with those with whom we disagree, and to extend grace and mercy to all we meet. This is God’s command for us, and through our baptism, we are equipped and have committed ourselves to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves” (BCP, 305).

God commands us to agape love. This is not a suggestion or good advice. Our response to Christ’s commandment is to seek and serve others. Christ came to transform the world and though the command is not an easy one to follow, it is the one that joins us with Christ in that transformation of all of creation.

[i]   Jaime Clark-Soles, Reading John for Dear Life (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 96.


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