This blog offers a meditaton on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
FILM SHOWN AT CANNES IS HARD TO FORGET
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
22-23 “In ‘that day’ many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we preach in your name, didn’t we cast out devils in your name, and do many great things in your name?’ Then I shall tell them plainly, ‘I have never known you. Go away from me, you have worked on the side of evil!’”
To follow Christ’s teaching means the only real security
24-25 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a sensible man who builds his house on the rock. Down came the rain and up came the floods, while the winds blew and roared upon that house—and it did not fall because its foundations were on the rock.
26-27 “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not follow them can be compared with a foolish man who built his house on sand. Down came the rain and up came the floods, while the winds blew and battered that house till it collapsed, and fell with a great crash.”
The Gospel of Mark (6:3) presents Jesus as “Tekton” that is, a builder in wood or any substance, who would have constructed houses, farm buildings, boats perhaps, as well as repairing farm implements and domestic furniture. The fact that he worked with his hands is not irrelevant to his character. Many of his parable stories are situated in the working environment of Galilee with its family farms, its new,larger estates with absentee landlords, its rich and poor, its unemployed labourers, its shepherds, fishermen annd housewives. He understands his mission as a task or job which must be completed. His teaching is full of references to houses (Greek: oikos) A person or a community is like a house, and for Jesus every “house” is a place that may have God or the Devil as a tenant. If the devil takes up residence the person will be oppressed by evil spirits who will destroy his mental and physical health; if God is resident, the person will be able to flourish. (Those readers who would like more information on this aspect of Jesus teaching can find my summary of it at emmock.com/oikos)
So this famous story about houses which provides a frame for all the teaching of Jesus uses a metaphor or model which was dear to Jesus the builder. Indeed, Jesus would have pointed out to Matthew that there’s really no problem about building on sand (think of the pyramids!) provided you have foundations. People who are “building a life” may be in a good place (rock) or a tricky place (sand) but if they build by putting Jesus’ teaching into practice, their lives will withstand storms. Those who think they can build by mere appreciation of Jesus’ teaching, will find that their lives are not well-founded and may be swept away by storms. Luke gets the details right in his version of the story in Luke 6: 47-49.
The Christian Church has built “houses of God” all round the world where people come to hear and appreciate Jesus’ teaching and to worship. There is not much in Jesus’ teaching that advocates the buildng of elaborate places of worship; he was used to the neighbourhood synagogue and visits to the temple in Jerusalem. Nor is there any evidence that the practice of Jesus’ teaching is related to the size or quantity of church buildings. If Jesus had a religion, it was the Jewish one, with its focus on family, community and the Torah of God. Churches that put Jesus’ teaching into practice will survive the storms of secularism and institutional decline, whereas those that don’t, won’t.
What about me? Well, I’ve tried hard enough to practice what Jesus preached to know how often I fail even when my intentions are good, so I reckon my foundations are still a bit shaky after all this time. At 72 years, I better get a move on, as there are probably some storms coming up.