|Extreme Makeover: God Edition #3 - Dec. 14, 2014|
|Written by Steve Boose|
|Tuesday, 16 December 2014 15:23|
Extreme Makeover: God Edition, Sermon #3
Planting in the Good Soil
December 14, 2014
By the morning of Day 3 of an Extreme Makeover home renovation, the family has been greeted, their story has been told, they have shown the house and its flaws to the Design Team, and they’ve been sent off on their vacation (usually to Disney World or someplace like that).
The contractors and a small army of volunteers have been marshalled, the original house has been demolished, and the debris cleared away. By the late afternoon of Day 2, the foundation slab for the house has generally been marked out and poured. Now, a standard house’s footings are usually left to sit for something like twenty-eight days before they are hard enough to build upon but the show doesn’t have time for this, of course, so a chemical is added to the concrete mix that will allow it to harden and cure in about fourteen hours! Only then can the framing begin and the true work on what will become the house start to take shape.
Now, imagine, for a moment, that you are a homebuilder, the contractor, and Ty Pennington and his Design Team come to you and say that they have come up with a design for the family home that is unique, to say the least. It’s all on one level, which is easy in some regards, but here’s the trick: everybody in the family wants the “foundation” under their personal bedroom to be different! The parents want everything in their room, including the floor, to be done with flagstones. The oldest son likes cinder blocks, so if we can do his room with that, he’d be over the moon about it. The daughter has always wanted a log cabin, and has asked if we could, pretty, pretty please, just make the base for her room out of cut logs? The rest can be poured concrete… oh, except for the kitchen, where we’d like to make the floor out of a couple layers of red sandstone bricks! Can we do that? Can we do the foundation for the house like that?
If your answer is anything other than, “Uhhhhhh, NO!” then I would guess you’ve either never built a house before or never paid attention to one being built! A foundation has to be strong. It also has to be more or less uniform. If it isn’t, it’ll come apart, separate, and end up being nothing. It can be composed of many different elements – basic concrete, after all, is made up of sand, water, gravel and cement – but each has to have their proportion and their place among the mix. Too much of one, not enough of another and, again, you end up with nothing you can use. I remember an episode of MASH where the doctors were trying to pour a concrete floor for the Operating Room and they’d mixed in too much gravel – BJ quips, “Congratulations, everyone – we’ve just poured eight hundred square feet of oatmeal!” Foundations are critical, because everything else that is built literally rests upon them!
I found myself thinking of a different kind of “foundation,” though, when a fellow by the name of Eduardo Xol was added to the Extreme Makeover Design Team. Eduardo’s specialty was landscaping, and almost as soon as the foundations for the house were poured and setting, he was starting to put together the gardens or flowerbeds for around the house. I remember the first garden Kathy put in, in front of our manse in PEI – she marked out an area under one of our front windows with a spade, grabbed her twisty garden claw and went at it for an hour or so. Then she grabbed all the clumps of grass, shook them out, and put them in the compost bin to go to the road. Eduardo and his group go a little farther than that – they dig out their planned areas to a depth of a foot or so, then fill in those holes with things like compost, peat moss, black earth, and other assorted base elements before a plant ever touches the ground. He lays a good foundation for things to grow in. It’s much like a fellow I know whose garden behind his house has been nourished by almost forty years of composted manure that came straight from the farm! Any seed planted back there thrives, because the “foundation” is strong. Houses given Eduardo’s special touch look absolutely beautiful, but I’m also certain that they continue to be beautiful as the months and years pass… as long as a little bit of work is put into them every year to build upon what was already there!
So, let’s put this all together and bring out three “foundational points” upon which I’m going to “build” the rest of this message.
Firstly, consider that a foundation usually takes a fair amount of time to become firmly established. That concrete mix on the TV show might only take a dozen or so hours to set but, as I said, for most homes it’s recommended that about four weeks pass before walls start to go up. I also remember when, as a child, an overpass was being built over a certain road for the expressway in Windsor – they humped up the mounds and then walked away for more than a year to let the dirt settle and compact before they tried putting anything like a roadbed or a bridge in place there! The foundation for a life or a faith takes longer than that even, literally years of time and experiences to develop and build upon, as we make our own decisions and try to figure out the things that are and are not important in our lives.
Secondly, one has to use the right materials for building a foundation – it has to be properly established and reinforced, with the various elements mixed in their proper proportion, or else it won’t be worth anything! If Eduardo Xol just went and got any old dirt and dumped it in a hole to try to grow a garden, he’d have a lot of work weeding out the undesirable plants, while at the same time constantly working to get the plants he wants to grow accordingly! But if he starts with a good foundation, he gets a good garden.
And this is our third point: a poor foundation will not stand. It will crack, crumble and disintegrate over time. We need to be striving to build a good “foundation” for our lives, just as we would for a house, a tower, a garden or field, or whatever.
Images of strong foundations abound in the Scriptures, from the bases of houses and buildings to the spiritual cornerstones in the lives of God’s people, images of stones and roots and anchors planted firm. Psalm 1 sings of the ones who establish themselves in the Lord and how they are like “trees planted by streams of living water…” yielding fruit in their season and not withering in the sun’s rays. Isaiah 61, which forms part of the Lectionary readings for today, speaks of where the ones called by God and who follow Him and His ways will become “…oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.” He later says in verses 10 and 11, “10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” Further back in his book, in chapter 28, the prophet spoke for God and said, “See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation…” (Is. 28:16b).
Perhaps best-known of all is the story recorded in Matthew 7 where Jesus discusses the difference between hearers and doers of the Word; He says that those who not only hear what He is saying but also act on His commands and try to live according to them are like those who build a house on rock, while those who merely hear the words but do nothing are like the ones who build on sand. When the storms come, the ones who have been following Christ’s Word, living according to it, seeking to love as He first loved us, striving to show grace as they have been shown grace, will be able to stand strong, as their foundation has been strong; but for those who treated God as an extra, or an annoyance, something just to be slotted in to an already full life or merely part of the thing that is built on the foundation, Jesus is very clear that that house will fall, and the fall will not be pretty!
And then, there is John the Baptist, standing toe-to-toe with the Pharisees and the scribes and telling them, point-blank, that their foundation was flawed, based as it was on the actions of religion instead of an actual relationship with God. As many prophets before him had said, God was tired of their empty, ritualistic actions and their desire for “cleanliness,” their long, itemized checklists things to be done to please God and satisfy His laws (as well as all the loopholes by which they could supposedly “fool” God into thinking they had obeyed Him in all things). John’s basic message to them is that if they actually had it right, then God would have no need of a Messiah, let alone one to prepare the way for Him! If attention to detail and keeping the Law to its strictest degree was good enough, by God, the doors of heaven are open for the few of you who keep it strong and firm to the end, no matter who you hurt or ignore along the way! But you are looking for a Messiah, an earthly deliverer… and you’re looking in the wrong place! They were dealing with a closed, self-reinforcing loop of arguments, perpetuating them through constant practice and rejecting everything that ran counter to these positions.
This is what was written in John’s gospel, from the first chapter: “19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.
“24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”
Your foundation is cracked and crumbling, John said; let me, and let the Christ, show you how to build one the right way! And when Jesus began to preach, He said to the people, I’ll show you how to construct a proper foundation for your life and for your faith, and how to build on it, through following my Word and my Way; I’ll show you how to reinforce it, through prayer and meditation time; and I’ll show you how to live it, in this life and in the eternity that is to come.
Many heard Him.
Only a few listened.
Many heard the words.
Only a few acted on them.
Friends, I tell you that, even today, we are still struggling with this. We are still struggling with the foundations for our lives, for ourselves and for those around us and for those whom we are seeking to help establish themselves upon the Lord. We are still struggling with the difference between hearing and doing, because hearing, while relatively easy, simply isn’t enough! Only by doing – by studying, by working, by living with Christ in our lives, by loving others as Christ loved us, by reading our Bibles, by meditating on what we have read, by reaching out and daring to say to others that we love them in the name of Christ – and by doing regularly can we truly build the proper foundations for our lives, the base upon which everything else builds.
Consider that, say, the average Sunday School lesson is about thirty minutes long, give or take depending on the lesson and the long-windedness of the preacher. That’s one thirty-minute session, once per week, dealing with the Bible, maybe, and if it’s disconnected with the rest of their week, it won’t really hold their attention. Put that against a thirty-minute TV show that a child might watch at the same time every day during the week, one that they might talk about with their siblings, discuss amongst their friends at school, and they see further reinforced by books and toys and a dozen other media as they walk down the aisle at the store… and that’s one show! If we just let ourselves or our children experience God here, and don’t reinforce it out there, there’s no way the Word of God, the Love of God, and the Life that God is seeking to build for us is going to make any kind of real impact on our lives!
You see, if God is not our foundation, (or, by this image, the cornerstone) then something else will take His place at the centre of our lives. God is not and can not be an add-on, something built on top of what is already there, because whatever is “already there” will be based on something of this world, something that will fade and wither and crumble in time. God will either be your foundation, or He will not be – the choice is up to you, and you will have to live with your choice, and not just in this life!
God is saying to us, through John, through Jesus, through the prophets and the apostles, and through millions of others down through the centuries: “Build your life on me, and you will stand strong, against anything the world can throw at you!” In the moment you come to the realization that you need God in your life, the moment that you realize that the story of the resurrection is for you, He’s like the driver of the cement truck who shows up and says, “I’m ready to pour! Rip up the old, so I can lay down the new, and see how strong your life can be with Me at its base!”
Resurrection. Reconstruction. Reinforcement. God is leading us to and through all three of these things, and we need ‘em all! Let’s pray this morning that we all find a way to take them for ourselves and live them for ourselves, for ourselves and for those around us, bringing the light of God ever brighter into the world in which we all live.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 15:24|