A man is looking at his new home, built on low lands, admiring them from above as he notices a Thunderstorm just west of him, when he suddenly looks down at his house, water starts streaming by it, in a matter of seconds, the water becomes a flood, his house is swept away, as he stares down on what has happened, a voice from heaven says, “life comes at you fast…”
Ok, so maybe God wouldn’t use the Nationwide ad, but it isn’t just Nationwide that is on your side, God is too and as we heard from Jesus in the Gospel today, his last words from the Sermon on the Mount, that God’s grace is with us and our discipleship will help us with what life throws at us.
Jesus said, “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.” So what does it mean to follow Jesus?
Jesus wants us to understand that it means more than hearing his words. A whole crowd, including his disciples, had been listening to his words on the side of that small mountain. He doesn’t want what he says to them, to be heard one day, and forgotten the next. Nor is it just saying Lord, Lord. And it isn’t just doing spectacular things. We have seen too many charlatans who look like the real deal but who are not following God’s will.
Jesus wants all of us who hear his words, who read them at night, hear them proclaimed in Church, study them, listen to them on the radio, he wants us to put those words into actions, into following God’s will. To believe in Jesus is to follow God’s will as Jesus has given it to us, and to put his words into action into the whole of our lives, not just a part.
As one person put it, “If Christ does not reign over the mundane events in our lives, He does not reign at all.” (Paul Tripp) Discipleship is about the whole of our lives following God’s will. And there are those who hear the words of Jesus but who don’t act on them.
Jesus tell us that they are 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!” Jesus who wants us to have an abundant life, filled with joy, love and peace reminds us that to really have those things, we must follow and act. For those who don’t, life will always fail them when the tough times hit.
And notice that Jesus says that “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on” both the wise man and the foolish man’s houses. It is only the foolish that had it fall. Jesus reminds us that all of us in our lives, suffer the rains, the floods, the bad, troublesome even tragic times. But if we live as Jesus has called us to do, than we will have the ability to withstand what comes our way, that God will give us the strength we need to overcome the “rains” so that our house will not fall, that the Spirit will be inside of us and around us to guide us, to live through the suffering, the tragedy, because we know there is more to life!
And his words certainly means there are no easy roads in following Jesus, but we already knew that in our lives, that there are no easy roads period. Discipleship is costly but truly following Jesus means we will have the strength to face what comes before us each day.
One simple way we can remember this, is by the prayers we say I think of this prayer for use by one who is sick (anyone can use it), from our Book of Common Prayer…
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.
Simple and yet built on the Rock, on the faith that Jesus offers to us for the Spirit of God that is with us, is there to support us all the day long to do God’s will. I also think of this prayer by Malcolm Boyd, written over 40 years ago, that asks for Jesus to be with us on our busy day.
“It's morning, Jesus. I've got to move fast — get into the bathroom, wash up, grab a bite to eat, and run some more. Where am I running? You know these things I can't understand. It's not that I need to have you tell me. What counts most is just that somebody knows, and it's you. That helps a lot. So I'll follow along, okay? But lead, Lord. Now I've got to run. Are you running with me, Jesus?”
The kingdom of heaven is for those who do the will of God says Jesus. No matter what life throws at us, no matter where we are running, right here and right now, we can anchor our lives on the words of Jesus and put them in practice, so that every day we can put ourselves on solid rock. For it is that foundation of faith and practice that will help us see Jesus today and forever.
As Robert Benson reminds us in A Good Life (Paraclete, 2004):
“If Christ is in us, and if Christ is present in the others that we meet, acknowledged or not, then there are no moments in which Christ is not present... One does not have to go far to find Jesus. What one has to do is adopt a posture that allows one to see him. My father used to say that when we get to heaven and see Jesus, our first thought is not going to be that we have never seen him before. Instead, we will grin and say, ‘It’s you, it’s you. I have seen you everywhere.’” Amen.