Summary: As the church enters a new era, many things appear to have changed. But the foundation in Christ is secure and is therefore the basis for the future. We must secure our intellectual, spiritual, and relational foundations in order to succeed.
For a number of years the building had stood in the community, serving our children as their elementary school. It had weathered the coming and going of several generations of children. It had withstood not only the storms that beat on it from the outside, but also the onslaughts of thousands of junior-size feet on the inside. It had housed shouts of triumph, like the one which escaped this father's lips when he was told that his daughter was doing exceptionally well in one of her classes. And it had known moments of anxiety like those occasional trips to the principal's office to deal with what is politely called a "discipline problem". A good, solid, place, this school, a building with lots of fond memories.
But, as the years went by the population shifted and there was less and less need for an elementary school in our community. Several innovative educational programs were attempted to attract children from outside our immediate area, and that helped for a while. But eventually, the Board of Education of Montgomery County decided to close Four Corners Elementary School, and for a number of months there was only an empty shell there, a building with no school, a structure with no life in it. But a building, a structure nonetheless.
And then, overnight almost, with a suddenness that took your breath away, with a devastation that seemed unreal, it was gone. The bulldozers moved in and with a few swift and sure passes took that building out, moved away the rubble, and then pushed the earth over the site and planted grass. It was as if there had never been anything there at all. All that remained was a parking lot, a small stand of trees, and the side path along which I had occasionally dragged a reluctant child. Gone, wiped out, it seemed. My son said, "How can I take my children by here some day and say to them, 'That's where I went to school?' There's nothing there anymore."
But now there is a new development. Now, within the last few months, something new has happened on that site. A new building is going up, a senior citizens home, I am told, I suppose on the assumption that if the neighborhood doesn't have children any more then what it does have is folks at the other end of life. But a senior center is going up on the site and not just on the site, but, I have learned, on the original foundations. When the bulldozers came and took out the school building, they did not destroy the foundations. No they just buried them for a time, and now they are able to use exactly the same foundations to put up a new and useful and beautiful structure. The foundations, you see, were solid, they were secure, and so they were useful to a whole new enterprise, a whole new generation.
Herein lies a parable, a parable of our church and more to the point, a parable of Christian life. Shall I spell out this parable for you?
The parable says to me:
First, if you keep and secure the foundations, even though what you once had is gone, you are still ready for whatever it is appropriate to build now. If you are careful to secure the foundations, even though what once was built upon them is no longer useful or is even gone, still you have something that can be used for your future.
Second, the parable says to me: what is built on top of the foundations may change, it may have an entirely different look and it may have different uses, but still its shape and its structure are determined by the foundation. The foundation is in the ground, it's there to stay, and it both limits and defines what can be put on top of it. The foundation sets the pattern for the structure.
And finally, the parable says to me and to you: you can destroy a good thing overnight, with terrible swiftness. But it takes time to build, it takes time to be constructive. Still, you save time and you preserve a heritage if you use the old solid foundations. The bulldozers came and almost overnight swept away virtually any physical evidence that there had ever been a Four Corners Elementary School. But when the builders came to put up the senior center, though it will take them many months to do their work, still they have a real head start because the foundations are secured.
What does the parable say? You are not interested in a lecture on the building code this morning. What does the parable say to you and to me in terms of our own lives together in the church? Let's permit the apostle Paul to put it in spiritual terms for us: