Matthew 7:24–27, Two Builders
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on as part of our worship service at Main Street Community Church and on the Internet. The talk is long.
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... of the man who built his house on the rock and how it stands firm against the trouble as we saw in that illustration this morning. We are warned to avoid being like the foolish man who built his house on the sand, whose house crashes into the ground when there’s a flood, as we saw earlier this morning, too. I was prepared to preach all about this thinking it was a lovely way to talk about how it is good to be part of a strong community. How God has blessed us with a strong foundation, all as part of the preparations for our 150th anniversary in just a couple weeks time. Then I looked at the story again and in the scheme of Matthews gospel, which Joe just read to us. Then I looked at the same story in Luke’s gospel in Luke Chapter 6, I think it is.
Each time I looked at the Bible, I learned something new and fresh as if it was something that I hadn’t picked up before. How exciting it is when God shows us something new. Often we think of the story as a children’s story, but there’s so much more depth to it. In the context of our 150th, I’ve been looking through some of the archives of how and when Main Street came into being. You will know that the original building at the front there was St Dunstan’s Chapel built as a temporary parish church while St Laurence’s was undergoing restoration.
Recently, I discovered a beautifully written description about what Main Street was to become when Main Street Chapel took over in the 1970s. To me, it spoke deeply of the foundations: where this group come from, why they believe that God put them in Frodsham. I’ve copied the original. The original may well turn up on a board in the next couple of weeks. I think it may have been John Maitland that wrote this alongside Andrew Rudd, Arthur Whittingham, and possibly one or two others.
It says, what sort of church is this? It was purchased by a small group of Christians in Frodsham, extensively repaired and reopened in 1979 as Main Street Chapel. Where did it come from? In the beginning, 1972, there were some families who commuted from Frodsham to Brook Chapel, an independent evangelical fellowship in Runcorn. They started a Sunday school in Frodsham and began to meet initially as a fellowship group and later as a church. Though we are independent in the sense that we are not part of any denomination, we have a great desire for unity and fellowship with other Christians in the community. We need each other. We didn’t come into being through some breakaway splits or heresy.
I have the same sense of unity in our fellowship and within the wider community today: we need each other. This is, in many ways, I guess, our unofficial governing document. It’s kind of who we really are. Yes, I’ve also found the original trust document being the original trustees signed regarding the building and the charity status signed back in the 1970s as well. This charity status that was Frodsham Evangelical Fellowship Trust, which then came to be Main Street Community Church. That’s a legal thing.
This little flyer, which I guess people picked up or was put through people’s letter boxes, generally explains who we are, what our purpose is in Frodsham in a roundabout kind of a way. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about as he rounds off his sermon on the Mount at the end of Matthew Chapter 7 and similarly at the end of the sermon on the plain in Luke Chapter 6. He ends both messages with the story of the man who built. Except in Matthew, there’s a focus on the people. One is wise, one is foolish. In Luke, if you look at it in Luke Chapter 6:47-49 , there’s a focus on the type of foundation that buildings are built on.
Both strands are really, really important because Jesus is ending his important sermons by talking actually about himself. The sermons on the mountain and on the plain are a real challenge to Jesus’ hearers. It’s as if Jesus is putting out there what he believes, who he is, what he’s doing here. It’s like a political manifesto, if you like. We just look at Matthew Chapter 7 today. We have Jesus asking questions of his audience as he presents his credentials.
Earlier on in Matthew Chapter 6, he’s talking about the gates and the narrow road that leads to eternal life. He’s asking, well, are you on the road? He’s on the road. Next in Chapter 7:15-23 he’s asking questions about other people again, in the sense of a tree and it’s fruit. How can you tell if there’s real change and transformation in a person who’s following Jesus, is there a fruit. Is there real change? Then the challenge about the wise and foolish builders is hearing the words, putting them into action.
Normally we think about the story of the foolish and the wise men, and talk about the importance of what foundation in our lives are built upon. These are correct interpretations of scripture and challenges that we must keep in mind. Jesus uses this story as a mere example after a list of others where actions must come as a result of hearing. You see the foolish man hears, he doesn’t put words of Jesus into action. The wise man, however, listens and acts.
In Matthews 7, there’s a comparison between a wise person and a foolish person. In Luke Chapter 6, there’s a comparison between foundation [inaudible 00:07:18] no action. In both accounts, Jesus is calling his hearers to put what they hear of his words into action. Throughout the whole last chapter or so of the sermon on the mountain in Matthew, Jesus is paving the way to ensure that his hearers listen to what he’s saying and to who he says he is. Before our story today, Jesus just talked about the religious and the moral rules of the time.
Looking back to Matthew Chapter 5, in the commentary about what the Old Testament scriptures say about murder and promises and adultery, and how to treat one another. The rabbis of the time would follow one teacher or another teacher. They’d talk about that individual’s teaching. Jesus takes this line of thought as well. He says, “Well, you’ve heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I tell you, but I tell you. You’ve heard, it said, love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I tell you,” Jesus has been quite blunt about it. I tell. He’s saying to those who hear that those who have come before him in the tradition can be listened to, but he must be heard. His way is worth [inaudible 00:08:45] .
Tom Wright, who, you know I enjoy his writings, puts it this way. Jesus Insists in the great warning, which closes the sermon on the Mount, that his hearers will be judged, but even on their response to God himself on whether they hear these words and do [inaudible 00:09:08] Doing what Jesus says or not doing it. This makes the difference between a house that stays standing in a storm and a house that falls [inaudible 00:09:19] crash. Those original hearers on the Mount. Jesus was presenting himself as the one to be listened to.
In Matthew, he’s already called to himself the 12 disciples. He now puts into effect this manifesto of what the kingdom is going to be like in the beatitudes that he starts off with. Now as the sermon ends, Jesus’ summon ends not [inaudible 00:09:46] The challenge is to all who are listening. What kind of land are you building upon? On who’s foundation is this gonna rest? Same question applies to us today, Coming back to that document that I found from John Maitland written by the elders of Main Street Chapel, back in the seventies, I was struck by the honest and yet general approach in which this flyer was written. It hearkened back to the original building that was built to house the parish church whilst it underwent renovations.
It spoke about the need for repair and reopening as something new. The new was not as a result of any falling out from another congregation, but from a desire to fulfil what it called a distinctive slot and the variety of worship within our community, distinctive slot. It even challenged people who are part of another worshipping community to think and pray very seriously before changing that particular allegiance.
As of what became Main Street Community Church began on a foundation, which to me seems as strong, gentle and with as much blessing as possible from those who sent off from Runcorn and those who received them into part of the church and so this flyer honestly sets out foundations for what chapter stood for and why the leaders felt that it was really some from [inaudible 00:11:28] thence set by wise people.
In his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Kenneth Bailey speaks about the process of first century building in Israel, which might help us understand why Jesus ends his sermon the way that he does. Bailey says, for the contemporary reader, this parable has lost its initial impact. In the modern Western world, a person who wants to build a house hires a JCB to dig the foundation. Concrete for the foundation is delivered on the back of a cement truck.
Concrete blocks are lowered into the foundation with power equipment, not in Israel at this time. Villagers only built in the summertime there. Then the rains come in the winter, nobody wants to build a stone house in winter. Summer provides dry, warm days suitable for building houses.
There is a downside. During the summer, the soil is like bronze. It’s easy to imagine a builder in the summer. With his pick-axe he tries digging and finds that the ground is indeed like bronze. The idea of long days of backbreaking work under scorching sun really doesn’t appeal to him. He opts to build his simple home on clay. That winter, however, there is is more rain than anyone can ever remember. The ground rapidly becomes soaked. A small run-off stream starts to run down his street and the ground begins to turn into the consistency of something like chocolate [inaudible 00:13:15] The clay under the stone walls of this newly built house begins to settle and buckle as a result. One stone after another pops out of the wall in the same way that when you drive along a road and the stones wash out in the rain, a serious bulge develops and the bulge expands and finally gives way bringing down the entire structure. First century middle Eastern villages used mud and water.
The wall is not built on the underlying rock. It will only last for as long as it remains, dry, settled. Putting on the firm foundation is good. These are the words of Jesus and yet he passes these words on to his followers. They’re not only words for them to [inaudible 00:14:16] out words for us to react to as well. Imagine then when Jesus approached Peter, who just moments before in Matthew chapter 16 has proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God and then Jesus gives him this ultimate surprise.
Peter, which means rock, “Peter on this rock. I will put my church and the gates of Hades rail against it.” As we know, Peter went on to lead the church, the group that became known as the followers of the way in Acts and before this, Jesus visited the disciples after his resurrection, do on them and said, receive the holy spirit. Then at Pentecost, this receiving of the holy spirit took place to all the believers who were gathered in that upper room.
Peter, as I say, becomes the leader of this Jesus group and continues to pray and to do what the scripture’s called signs and wonders in the name of Jesus and so in spite of his impetuousness, Peter becomes the first leader of the worldwide church. Jesus chooses his friend Peter to take us forward today here at Main Street as we reflect upon the history that began to build our fellowship. We have that similar calling upon our lives to hear the words of Jesus and put them into action, We might not always get it, [inaudible 00:15:56] have a God delights to forgive our mistakes, who loves to pick us up, put us on our feet and gently speak to us, whispering, let’s try again.
That’s why it’s important for us to be part of a community, so that we are not alone and we don’t struggle as the original elders document that I talked about earlier reads, “We are very keen on each Christian making the contribution God has intended him or her, we see the ministry of the church as being in the hands of all of us, in the loosest sense of the word.” If we build our lives on Jesus, we will be part of the house that lasts forever. The challenge that we know from this story still asks us, what houses are we building, putting today in our church?
Are we doing Jesus’ words or are we hearing them or [unintelligible 00:17:06] we must hear and we must have – It’s not always easy, but this is the stark message that Jesus had for those who are listening to him when he delivered that first sermon on the Mount.
Now, we, through Peter the rock, through our own spiritual foundation set by the original elders of this fellowship in many ways, are called following those same steps to trust. That’s his words to us this morning.
References and sources
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