This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New English Translation (NET)
22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’
Hearing and Doing
24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!”
28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law.
The lawbreakers are those who neglect the “rule of God” which Jesus taught. They wrongly imagine that big talk and big actions will get his approval. Every minister who has ever thought, “My sermon was pretty impressive this morning,” along with the whole tribe of religious snake oil salesmen, should attend to this warning.
The parable of the houses is graphic, even if Matthew’s version asks us to believe that pyramids are poorly situated in sand. Luke’s version says, “in sand with no foundation” which seems more realistic. It’s a very Jewish parable featuring the traditional wise and foolish men. The point is that any strong building has a good foundation, which itself needs careful choice. Those who neglect the rule of God have no foundation for their lives, because this rule is the basis of strong character which can withstand trouble. Jesus’ parable is wholly down-to-earth and rests on traditional wisdom, as does a whole swatch of Jesus’ teaching. The tradition he uses, which is found in the Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Wisdom books of the Hebrew bible is one where Wisdom reveals truths that go with the grain of life, derived from patient observation of the world and its living creatures. Jesus’ use of this tradition shows his respect for the moral wisdom of human beings. God’s rule does not destroy the human grasp of goodness; rather, it inspires and guides it. The “sermon of Jesus” ends with two clear statements:
1. Those who try to put Jesus’ teaching into practice are not far from God.
2. Those who worship Jesus and neglect his teaching are very far from God.