Summary: Today’s gospel message is not a lesson on how to avoid storms, but rather how to build our lives in order to withstand that storms that will come.
A Rabbi and a Soap Maker went for a walk one day at the park and studied the people who had come out to enjoy the warm summer day. After going about a mile along the path the soap maker suddenly turned to the Rabbi and said to him, “Rabbi, what good is religion? Look at all the trouble and misery that exists in the world! There is still such sin and sadness, even after so many years of teaching and preaching about goodness and truth and peace. If religion is good and true, why should this be?”
The Rabbi said nothing. They continued walking until the Rabbi happened to see a child playing in the dirt. The Rabbi said to the soap maker, “Look at that child. You say that soaps makes people clean, but see the dirt on that boy. Of what good is soap? With all the soap in the world, over all these years, the child is still filthy. I wonder how effective soap is after all!”
The soap maker protested and exclaimed to the Rabbi; ‘But Rabbi soap cannot do anything unless it is used.”
With a nod the Rabbi said; “Exactly.”
In our gospel text for this morning Jesus is making the same point the Rabbi made to the soap maker, namely that ‘Faith Requires Action.” Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Our text today clearly indicates that faith has a “doing” component to it. As the Epistle of James states; “Faith without works is dead.” The soap, our faith must be used to be relevant for our lives!
I think this is a very difficult concept for us Lutherans to appreciate. Many of us Lutherans grew up hearing countless sermons berating the vices of work-righteousness. Martin Luther and other 16th century reformers protested mightily against a faith that was not really faith but self-achievement that tried to please God with our efforts.
The reformers were right in their fears concerning works-righteousness, but the end result today may be that we have forgotten that faith does have an “action” component. Faith requires “doing” on our part, not to please God but in response to what God has done for us.
Most of us can remember the children’s song about the wise man who built his house upon a rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. How foolish it would be, the song implies, for someone to put thousands of dollars into building a beautiful house and forget the basic pre-requisite of a good foundation. Even with all the latest appliances and gadgets the builder is probably headed for disaster if he or she has not paid attention to what lies under the building.
In 1992 Hurricane Andrew destroyed thousands of homes in South Florida. Yet in an area where the wreckage looked like a war zone, one house remained standing, still firmly attached to its foundation.
When a reporter asked the homeowner why his house had not blown away like the others, the man replied ‘I built this house myself.’”
“I also built the house according to the Florida State building code. When the code called for 2x6 inch roof trusses, I used 2x6 inch roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane – and mine did.
Jesus said “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on a rock.”
It is foolish to hear God’s Word but not believe it or to put it into practice and to not build ones life on it. Jesus said, ‘The people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God’s message (Luke 11:28). James said something similar when he wrote, “Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it (James 1:22).”
Unfortunately, there are many people who love going to Church and enjoy meeting fellow Christians. They love to sing hymns and read Christian literature but do not associate what they are doing and saying with what is happening in their life. The Words of Christ does not penetrate to the point of making a difference in the way that they live their lives.
During my first call I witnessed an incident that highlights this point very well. On many Sundays after Church my family would eat lunch at a local restaurant. On one occasion I over heard one waitress inform another waitress how much she hated to wait on people on Sunday mornings. Why, because many of the people that had just come from church were the most difficult people to please. You would think; the waitress went on to say, that people coming from Church would be a joy to wait on.