I grew up 25 miles from the beach – most of my childhood memories are of dark, cold, wet, rainy mornings clam digging. My primary job was to run around – stomping on the beach looking for round holes in the sand that started squirting. I always needed help digging my limit, so I would shout to whoever was closest to point out the clam hole. As a kid who spent a fair amount of time at the beach, I didn’t build very many sand castles. Probably because I didn’t have the cute matching shovel & pail. But as an adult, I marvel at the creations people can create with a cute matching pail & shovel, a few sand sculpting tools, a little water and a whole lot of of sand. Up and down the Pacific Coast, building Sand Castles is not just for a family outing at the beach, it’s become annual community events and competitions. Pacific Beach, Long Beach, Alki on West Seattle, and “Sand Castle Day & Contest in Cannon Beach, OR which began in 54 years ago in 1964, partly as a way of helping the town recover from a tsunami the previous year. Sand castle building enthusiasts are given a plot of sand, about 30 x 30 feet, and create exotic sand castles and sand dragons and sand animals. There are teams of professional sand sculptors who travel the sand beaches of the west coast, weekend after weekend during the summer months, and they create exotic, incredible artistry in the sand. Sculptors start right after the morning high tide, work frantically to turn their visions into reality in just a few hours.
And before you know it, within hours, the tide comes in and leaves a blank slate, kind of like an etch-a-skech, so hardly a trace of the artistic beauty remains. And this whole process becomes a metaphor about life. Joy comes in the process of building of the sand castles. You don’t build a sand castle to live in, but for the joy of the moment – of creating, of companionship in creating. No matter what we build in life, with enough time, it will be washed away. So there is a beauty in not holding on to things too tightly, in recognizing the impermanence of things. And there can be the simple joys of the pleasure of creativity during the time given to each of us on this earth.
Drawing on his experience in carpentry, Jesus tells this compelling parable about two men who each built a house. He doesn’t mention any difference between their skills and resources. The only variable was where each chose to build. Jesus noted that, based on their choices, one man was wise and the other was foolish. The man who made the better decision about where to build was a wise builder because he chose the rock as his foundation. It would have been challenging to build on rocky terrain to attach the structure to the bedrock. With Time, patience and hard work, his house could endure the inevitable storms that would come by being built into the rock
The other builder (Jesus calls him foolish), also knew how to build a house, but didn’t consider the foundation. His concern may have been on getting the house built quickly. I saw a contractor’s bumper sticker. You can’t have Cheap, Fast, AND Quality-but you can have 2 out of the 3.
Without taking as much time to prepare the foundation, building the h0use was quickly completed. This builder may not have thought about inevitable storms that would come. Sometime after they each had built their houses, one of those 100 year storms battered both structures. Wind and rain poured over the rocky hills. Floods of water washed across the sandy ground. Which house stood?
The house on the rock stood firm in spite of the storms. Importance of a proper foundation.
I was standing in line at Home Depot the other day, and the young man behind me was holding a pole with two shovels turned inward on each other. I have used such a tool exactly one time in my life, so with my sense of superior knowledge I said, “Are you heading out to dig a few post holes today?” He responded that he was a geologist and was hired by a land-owner wanting to build a home and he needed to find out how far down the bedrock was. I found that fascinating.
Apparently, to build a house, you don’t just lay a slab of concrete on the ground and call it a foundation. In the PNW, the footings for a house need to be at least 12 inches deep because the depth of frost ranges from 6-8 inches and you don’t want the frost to go deeper than the foundation because it could break the foundation. You can’t see the foundation after the house is built; but it turns out the most important feature of the home is the deepest part, the more than skin-deep variety. You can do as many face-lifts with paint and granite countertops, but what is most important is what you can’t see. If you want a home to last, don’t cheat on the foundation.
The parable Jesus tells is at the close of the Sermon on the Mount, where he has been teaching about the beatitudes, prayer, forgiveness, not judging others; where he has laid out spiritual guidelines for living a spiritual life. “The person who hears these words and teachings of mine and does them, puts them into practice, is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. And so when the rains fall and flood come and winds blow and beat against that house, it will not fall. Why? Because its foundation is on the rock. On the other hand, the person who hears these words and teachings of mine and does not do them is like the foolish man who builds his house upon the sand. And so when the rains fall and floods come and winds blow and beat on that house, it will fall. Why? Because its foundation is on the sand.”
Our lives are like houses, like the walls and windows of a house. If we build our life upon a firm foundation, when the storms of life come, our life will remain intact. If we build our life on a poor foundation, when the storms of life inevitably come, our life may be shattered. We intuitively know the need for good foundations for anything to last. And what is the good foundation according to this story? It is those who hear and put into practice the spiritual teachings and values that Jesus has been describing in MT 5-7. Jesus has been teaching about life in his kingdom, about a blessed life that is ruled by prayer and kindness and forgiveness. He has been giving us an architectural design for life, a way of living, a way of loving, a way of worshipping God. He concludes his teachings with a parable that says: A person who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. The wisdom is in the doing; in the follow through. The wisdom is in the putting these teachings into practice, in order that the storms of life don’t destroy us.
When I was In San Francisco, I read some history about Golden Gate Bridge. The San Andreas Fault travels under the south pier of the Golden Gate Bridge. mile span between the piers, and in the middle, apparently it can sway a couple feet. The Golden Gate Bridge has been closed only a few times because of windstorms. Not because the bridge was in danger but because taller vehicles could tip over.
Apparently if you want one of the safest places to go, you go in SF -it’s in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. Built to withstand strong earthquakes. It will not fall, because it’s built with sway and some flexibility. It’s construction is a marvel of cantilever and suspension. Every bit of concrete, and steel relates one piece to another. Every piece of metal also relates to two giant cables, that finally come up to two great piers that go down into bedrock, and two anchors out on each side. That’s the genius of a suspension bridge-every single piece of metal, every single piece of concrete, is connected with its foundation. The parable is about finding a foundation to build your life on.
While a sand castle might last for maybe 6-8 hours, there are Stone castles that have lasted centuries, even for thousands of years. When we were in Europe last year, we toured through castles and cathedrals that had stood the test of time thus far. In the Netherlands, both in Delft & Amsterdam, they had what was called the Old Church & the New Church – the New Church being built in the 1600’s. Our eyes stretching up hundreds of feet above us to experience the beauty of the interplay between stone vaults and stained-glass windows, the exquisite artistry that took centuries to build.
The architectural design and plans and foundation go back one thousand years. And the pleasure was not in creating something beautiful which lasted six hours until the next tide, but in creating a legacy something that would last for centuries. If it is going to last for centuries, it must be made of rock.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona is only 60 years old – but it’s possible for it last centuries. It’s a Catholic Church, but it’s really more of an ecumenical chapel. In 2005, parishioners of a local Catholic Church decided to hold a Taize Prayer Service for visitors. It is now held every Monday at 5pm. Whether in formal prayer during the Taize service or in silent reflection, thousands of visitors each year are comforted and affirmed in the Chapel of the Holy Cross and awed by its design and beauty. As the sign on the door proclaims, the chapel is a shrine that offers “peace to all who enter.”
Exodus 33 – You shall stand on the rock as my glory passes by.
I will put you I the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand while I pass by.
Psalm 61 – When My heart is overwhelmed Lead me to the rock that is higher than I – Psalm 61
Psalm 62 – The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 18 – The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
2 Sam 22 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. The Lord lives. Blessed by my rock. Exalted be God, the rock of my salvation.
Matthew 16:18 Upon this Rock, I will build my kingdom.
Rev. Edward Marqhart: Metaphor about life. Building metaphorical – stone castles gives great joy, knowing that you are part of the process of building a castle, a culture, a nation, a church – that will last for centuries, for long periods of time. Being part of something which is much larger and longer that yourself and your immediate pleasures; that the bricks you lay in the cathedral may last for centuries. What you do with your life can be a small part of a grand design.
Jesus wasn’t talking about houses. He was reminding his listeners that we can build our spiritual lives on shifting sands rather than on firm foundation of rock. Jesus calls us to be part of something bigger.
A man came to a construction site, where stonemasons were working.
He said to one, “What are you doing?” The stonemason said, “You can see, I’m chipping a stone.”
He said to another, “What are you doing?” And the second stone cutter said “I’m building a wall.”
The man walked over to a third mason and said, “What are you doing?”
This mason answered, “I am building a cathedral to the glory of God.”
What is our foundation? What are the pillars of faith we want to be intentional about in our personal lives of faith AND as the body of Christ as church? If someone used a post-hole digger on your life of faith, how far down would they have to dig?
Jim & Nancy Davis will talk about the spiritual intentions they put into building their home next week.
Bishop Robert Schnase wrote a book about 10 years ago – Five Practices of Frusitful Congregations – Passionate Worship, Radical Hospitality, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking mission and service, Extravagant Generosity. What would you add? Integrity, compassion?
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The 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. 26And 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. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.