theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ordinary Sunday 9A

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Aren’t we sometimes hit
by the timeliness of our lectionary readings,
those passages appointed for today?
Even to the point of them coming a little close to home?

Parables of buildings collapsing
seem just a little callous right about now.

And yet timely.
Speaking into something real, rather than hypothetical.

“The wise man built his house upon the rock”.
It’s a simple, but obvious allegory
with which Matthew chooses to end
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

A wise man, and one foolish.  The sensible, and the silly.
One who acts on sound teaching
and integrates it into faithful living,
and the other who’s not too concerned
to cut some fairly major corners.

A bit like a recent rendering of a well-known fairy tale:
“The Three Little Cowboy Builders”,
highlighting the issue of poor porcine building practice
in a world without apprenticeships.
Previously, the Sermon on the Mount
has seen crowds coming to sit at Jesus’ feet,
to listen, to be challenge and changed,
to hear the words of their faith reinterpreted to them,
put in a context that speaks of the spirit
rather than the letter of the Law, the Torah.

How many of us find the time to sit, listen, hear?
Where do we take time to let Scripture and prayer
change us, teach us?    How are we apprenticed,
discipled to Christ if we cannot do this?

How many of us –  and I speak to myself here – want
to build great mansions of ministry, spiritual stately homes,
architecturally awarded abodes for the soul,
… and don’t pay attention to the spadework,
the boring, mundane preparation
that makes the site in any way tenable, sustainable, safe.

Our whole approach to assisting Christchurch
has seen numerous websites and appeals set up,
but let’s remember the on-the-ground mucky spadework,
the students and the Farmy Army, dealing with silt, and smell,
and what can be politely be referred to
as DIY sewerage arrangements.

And I wonder
whether we’re not in getting-ready-for-Lent-mode:
Still to come, is the logical outworking of the cautionary tale:
finding time to check the lay of the land:
how we are, and who we are, before building.
Making sure we have a foundation on which to build:
a prayer- and inner life, time spent in conversation with God.
Gathering the resources we need together,
Scripture, our tradition, fellow pilgrims and workers.

The house Jesus had in mind – rather like the piggy fairy tale –  was probably made of bricks.

Not those mass-produced,
but born of the builder’s sweat and labour.
Some of which we’ve seen brought down in Christchurch’s heritage buildings, but mixed from the mud and rock of real life, the soil of where we find ourselves, with the straw of a enquiring, engaged intellect to give it body and strength.
Fired in the suffering and beauty of what it is to be human.

Jesus’ allegory begs a question:
Are we building wisely or well?
Are we, perhaps, building at all?

“Blessing and curse”
says that hard reading from Deuteronomy.
Blessing and curse.
To act in accordance with what we believe,
to look for and to strive for God brings blessing.
To be unfaithful to who we are,  and all we believe,
is curse.

What and how and if we build is important.
Ultimately, emphatically, important.
There is nothing moreso if we are to “enjoy God forever”.

To “dwell in the House of the Lord forever”.

What we do and who we are
is not an afterthought to God.
Each of us is made and called to be blessing to this world.

It might seem in rather poor taste that we
should have this reading so soon after the earthquake.

But such tragedies ask us
hard questions as people of faith,
might have us asking those same hard questions of God,

but they do underline for us
something our ancestors knew
and that we sometimes forget:
that human life is fragile,
more delicate than we would like to admit,
and that what we build is quickly unbuilt,
unless we find a place to invest our labour
that is solid and sound.

While there is breathe and life in us,
we are invited to build a house not made of hands,
to integrate who we would like to be
with who and how we really are.
To build a house that is not hollow,
that has about it integrity and beauty,
a resilience and a hope that will endure
and that will rest upon the Rock of our Salvation.

The God who is,
in and for all time and all eternity.  Amen.

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