One of the more interesting aspects of yesterday’s sermon message was the discussion our associate pastor had concerning one of the more intriguing Gospel passages about the trials and difficulties of life. Matthew 7:24-27 comes at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, and it suggests one of the most characteristic aspects of that part of the Bible as a whole, namely the way that the statements of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 through 7 are often praised but very rarely practiced. This passage reads: ““Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”” To be sure, these sayings of Jesus Christ are not easy to implement, and even with the help of God and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we are likely to be somewhat imperfect (Matthew 5:48) in implementing them. Be that as it may, many people do not even try to implement them whatsoever.
As interesting a topic as this is, though, for now I would like to focus on an aspect of this passage that is not often considered when it comes to the course of our own lives, and that is the contrast between the wise and foolish man that accompanies this ironic understanding of how many people build on the stand as opposed to building on the rock of Jesus’ teaching and doctrine and practice. This aspect is the fact that in Jesus’ telling, the same rains, floods, and winds come to both houses. Whether or not someone builds on the rock or builds on the sand, stormy weather will come. The difference between the lives of the faithful and those who are ultimately faithless are not in the storms faced by either people but in the way our spiritual house handles the storms. For the faithful, the house is built firmly on an unshakable foundation, and so it endures. For the faithless, the house is built on the sand, and so there is no root nor depth to the structure, and so when trials come the house falls, with calamitous effect. It is the state of the house in the aftermath of life’s difficulties that reveals which category we happen to belong in.
I often ponder that aspect of life, its stormy weather. Part of my personal preoccupation of sorts with storms comes from having been raised in an area where storms were common . These storms were of various kinds. Some storms came about as a result of the meeting of the moisture coming from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meeting over the state of Florida and spreading from the middle towards both coasts, bringing rain as well as thunder and lighting on a regular, sometimes even daily basis, especially in summer. Other storms were the result of frontal systems that came from colder areas, and these storms were often accompanied by squalls and sometimes even tornadoes before the normal warming pattern would pick up and return weather back to normal. At still other times tropical storms and hurricanes would bring intense winds and moisture and storm surge with them and would then wind up somewhere else leaving clear skies and those left behind to assess the damage and repair and rebuild as necessary.
Another part of this preoccupation with storms, though, springs from less physical grounds. For a variety of reasons, I have long understood that emotional and mental and spiritual aspects of life are often full of stormy weather as well. I have lived a life that has never been short of trials and difficulties, whether one has looked at physical crises with gout and other mobility issues or my lifelong struggles with mental health issues like PTSD, major depression, and crippling anxiety, or my own struggles with issues like communication and interpersonal relationships that have resulted from a life filled with a great deal of isolation and abuse. These storms have consequences. Like physical storms, they leave damage that must be repaired or rebuilt, and even when the storm clouds go away and the sky returns to sunniness and only partly cloudiness, the repercussions of the storms do not always go away. Sometimes a house endures the storm and one only has minor damage to deal with as a result. And sometimes houses fall, with great destruction to those who took their stability for granted.
As a result of these preoccupations, it is worthwhile to consider many aspects of storms and their aftermath and our reaction to them. Some storms are predictable and a part of ordinary life that one can cope with easily. Other storms provide a lot of warning time ahead so that preparations can be made for those who are alert and aware. But it is too late when a storm is coming to ensure that one’s foundations are right. One can buy bottled water, board up one’s windows, fuel up a generator, and evacuate as the storm comes, but one cannot engage in foundation reengineering at that late hour. Likewise, one cannot do necessary repair work until after the storm has gone. Most of life, thankfully, does not consist of storms, but depending on how well one has built, or how many storms one has to face, the stormy weather of our lives can seem to be a far larger matter than it in fact is. Let us keep these things in mind and take advantage of the absence of storms to make sure we are prepared for what will inevitably come our way.
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