August 12, 2018 How Firm Is Your Foundation?

 August 12, 2018 Matthew 7:24-27

HOW FIRM IS YOUR FOUNDATION?

Can you imagine paying big, big, big bucks to live in a newly built condo building in a swank city on the west coast only to find that this building that is a skyscraper, pretty brand new, maybe a few years old, not more than five, done up to earthquake codes, standing pretty tall got some problems. Many famous people live there. People like Joe Montana of football fame. The problem, they recently found out, is that the building is starting to settle, and it is tilting to one side, a little at a time. In fact, on TV news recently they showed someone who was on one of the floors above shooting a marble from one end of the room on a wooden floor to the other but when the marble got across the room it slowed its pace, stopped, and came rolling right back to where it began. This brand-new building is heading to be like the leaning tower of Pisa, but they hope not for many years to come.

In this day and age, in the city by the bay, it is hard to believe that an expensive high rise charging big money, with a wonderful view, close to other buildings, with all the building codes needed, that a building has been found to be like a ship at sea that takes on water and starts listing to one side. It reminds me of the Titanic that hit the iceberg and began to take on water and slowly it began to pitch so bad people could not hold their balance, until it finally took the deep plunge to the ocean bottom taking many folks to their death, rich, poor, old, young, foreigners, famous people, folks from the US. The ship called the unsinkable, sank.

Foundations are important for buildings, houses, and our lives. When Carole and I were looking for a house when I was getting ready to retire we went to one in Auburn right across the street from the golf course. Our realtor plugged the golf course knowing I love to play golf. We went in and looked around, stood in this small kitchen, stood in front of the refrigerator, between that and I believe a counter and felt we were on a downslope. We almost lost our balance. If an egg had been put on the counter I’m sure it would have rolled onto the floor.  Don’t know if the house was sinking, or the floor was settling, but the one thing we knew, golf course nearby or not, this was not the place for us. There could have been a foundation problem and we weren’t looking for something that needed lots of work.

Let’s try and relate all this to our lives. If you’re going to base your entire life on something, you want to know that it is solid. You know, if you are going to buy a new car you want to know it is going to last a long time. Same with a house. Same with getting a job somewhere. Same with a marriage you are about to enter. In our Christian life if you’re going to stake your eternity on something, well you better be sure that it is true. Lots of stuff is being peddled out there when it comes to faith things. You can believe anything these days and when talking about what happens after death there is a lot of theories. You better get it right the first time because there is no second chance. It would be tragic to spend your life on a path that you thought led to heaven only to find out too late that you were…. dare I say it…you were wrong!

As born- again Christians we build our lives and stake our eternity on the truth of God’s Word. True Christians ought to be able to say, if God said it, I believe it. And I stake my eternal life on it. What we know is this. The truth will set you free. That mean snake-in-the-grass will feed you stuff that is only a half truth, or no truth at all. And if you buy into it, well your and easy prey to be lead astray. 

We need the right foundation, that solid foundation, the one that can not be moved, or shaken, that will stand the test of time in order to stay the course when those times of trouble hit.

You probably know today’s scripture by heart. I’ve used it some as an example, or as the main topic. In Matthew’s Gospel it comes at the end of the long sermon that we know as the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus spoke to his disciples, and a bunch of people who had gathered to listen to his preaching and teaching. For two long chapters Matthew records words of wisdom given to the people who came to hear Jesus. They cover a multitude of subjects. Like any good sermon ought to do, and what I try to do with my own sermons, or my own teachings, when you come to the end there has to be a conclusion, an open invitation to be part of the story. For Jesus some of his teachings, his sermons are open ended because he is asking you to pick who you are in those stories. For example, when he told the story in answer to the question about who the good neighbor was, he told about three guys, one a priest, one a student of the law and a foreigner from Samaria. When the priest and law student came by a naked man lying by the side of the road they basically crossed over to the other side of the street ignoring him. Then the foreigner came, stopped to see if he could help, fixed his wounds the best he could, took him to an inn, got him something to eat, told the innkeeper to let him stay till he was well enough to travel and to keep track of what he spent and when he was coming this way, he would come in and pay the bill. He asked the expert of the law who he thought was doing what God wanted him to do. His answer, the fellow from Samaria. Jesus’ response…go and do likewise. The point of the story for his audience would be, are you like the fellows that pass by someone, even go to extremes to not help, or are you someone who stops and help someone who is hurt no matter what they look like, or where they are from? Or maybe do you feel like the fellow that was lying there on the street for you’ve been down on your luck and nobody seems to care or will help you. The world just ignores you.

Jesus wasn’t preaching and teaching just to hear himself preach or teach. He was telling the folks how they ought to live in God’s world, by God’s way. He was laying a new foundation, or even building on the foundation that most of them came from, you know the Old Testament, the Book of the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms and all that history. The world does it one way, but followers of God should be doing it God’s way. So, when we come to the conclusion of his sermon, he has one last thing to say to them. To make it simple he says, those of you who have heard my voice, have listened to my teaching, what are you going to do with it? Have you heard my words? Did you grasp them? Have you ears, but yet still not hear? Are you like the house built on the sand that falls to the ground when a storm comes because there was no proper foundation to hold up that house? Or are you someone who has heard my words and you have taken them to heart. You are ready to put them into practice. These words of mine have touched you in such a way that you vow that you will begin to change your lives. You, therefore, are like the house built on a solid foundation of faith in God, a foundation so strong that when the storms of this world, this life hit against you, you will hang on the best you can. When the storms rage, you will sing, “Though Satan should buffet, though storms shall rage, you have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Foundations make homes strong. The right foundation makes our faith strong. I can remember when I was in the working world back in the 70’s when people were trying to sell property in Florida. Some of you might remember those days. It always was joke because most of the property they wanted you to buy was on sand, let’s say it was sinking sand, which is not a good foundation to hold a house up during some storms, or even repeated storms, especially in Florida with hurricanes coming at you. One young newly married fellow went to one of those seminars and bought a piece of property in Florida. We all made fun of him. Some guys at work joked and said they would sell him a part of the Brooklyn Bridge for just pennies.  

But now in Florida, on that sand, on those places that were not so great, stands many homes, high rises, hotels, some very expensive. Are they holding up? Well some have, and some get belted pretty good by storms and hurricanes year after year.

Our spiritual lives are like those homes. We are the folks that Jesus speaks to week after week, Sunday after Sunday. We are the ones who sit to listen to what God has to say to us about our lives, our faith walks, our problems. His subjects are the same as those found in Matthew’s gospels in chapters 5-7. It begins with the Beatitudes, you know those words that start, “Blessed or happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” On an on Jesus preached to help people examine their lives, and that is what we must do. Our faith must be strong in order to stand against that sly fox who can twist God’s word like he did to Eve in the garden that led her to not only pick the forbidden fruit, but took the first bite, before enticing Adam to join her. What a horrible result…. they found they both were naked…. the snake laughed…. God cried…Adam and Eve went into hiding…but God came searching for them…. God kicked them out of the garden for sin had begun….and life was not the same for them, or for the world since that time.

How firm is the foundation of your faith? Our closing hymn asks this question. “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

Do you remember how Jesus said to Peter these words after he confirmed that Jesus was the Christ? Jesus said: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, (Which means ‘rock) and on this rock, (might we say, this faith that God reveled to you) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

What Jesus was doing with his disciples and his followers was forming a firm foundation in his teachings and in their belief of God. They had to be stronger in their belief than their ancestors who left Egypt for the promised land only to complain constantly, many wanting to turn back to their former lives instead of looking forward to what the Promised Land had to offer. You know what happened to them…they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and never ever made it to the promised land. In the days ahead for the disciples there would be bleak and dark days and they would test their faith, the very foundation that Jesus was laying for them.

So, here we are in 2018 with so many things vying for our attention, and Satan trying still to come up with many more shrewd temptations to get God’s people to listen to him, rather than to God. Stuff he uses seem ok at times, but it just leads one astray a little at a time. It’s like that building in California I began with. You see, they say that most people can’t see that the building is leaning at all. But it is. You may not be able to tell by the naked eye, but when tested they see an ever so slight tilting. When they did the structural check, they showed many minute cracks in the foundation that shows just a slight shift to one side. How long till it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa? No clue. But because of the uproar of the people who live there, they are looking into fixing the problem. Some people refuse to stay there believing at some point in their lives that building will lean so far it will topple over and their fear is they will be sleeping some night and the next thing they know their building is touching the next one. Kind of crazy, but hey, if you pay big bucks to have a great place to live, wouldn’t you want it to be on a solid foundation in order to stand up against those storms, especially in California?

Here is what they said was the problem. Though they did research and tried to figure all the things needed to be in code, what happened in this case they did not go deep enough in the ground to get to the bed rock to stabilize the foundation. It really is embedded in sinking sand right now. Now that the building is finished, now that the problem of leaning has occurred, they are working on some solutions to try and tie things in to that bedrock. Much money to do that, besides all the other inconveniences and who knows when those who own a piece of it will feel comfortable in living there.

Just think that building really is like our lives in many ways. It isn’t the major things that often shake our faith, it’s the little things that we become complacent and accepting of. That’s why that sly fox sneaks around like a roaring lion, for at just the right time, when one is not alert, he will strike. “It’s okay to do this or that” he tells us, “after all everyone else is doing it.” Yah! How many times have we heard that one. “Oh, it’s a new day, and the Bible was just for those long, long ago.” Really? Isn’t it still the same word of God for us today? Sneaky isn’t he. He tries anything he can like even getting God’s people to not read God’s Word or even take time to pray.

Jesus reminds us to keep our faith on the solid rock that holds us up. On Christ the sold rock we stand because as we know, all other ground is really sinking sand.

Stay strong, stay connected, stay close to the one who can handle all our needs and all our concerns. Be like a tree whose roots go deep into the ground so that when the storms come, and the winds blow, that tree might bend, it might lose a limb or two, but because its roots have gone deep enough, and that tree has gotten the proper nutrients to keep it strong, it might bend but it won’t break.

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground, my brothers and sisters, is sinking sand.

So, may it be.

About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.