Summit Presbyterian Church
June 6, 2010
Isaiah 55: 10-13; Luke 6: 39-49
Word in Action
Luke ends his sermon on the plain with this parable of two housebuilders. Now, if I was playing fast and loose with scripture I might say this story shows that Jesus would support our capital campaign. The campaign we're launching this fall to restore our buildings by replacing the roof to make it rain-worthy; by bolstering the tower to make it wind-worthy; and by pointing and repairing the walls so the church will stand and not fall. And I do believe Jesus would support our capital campaign - insofar as he takes positions on these kinds of things - for it's from this building that we proclaim the good news of God's grace, welcome elder friends for food and fellowship, and invite youth into relationships with adults who care about them.
But this parable is not about our capital campaign. Nor is it about houses or churches, at least not directly. It's about what we do or don't do when we hear the Word of God -- especially the Word of God as it comes to us in those things that Jesus tells us to do. Hard things, things he spoke about earlier in the sermon: loving our enemies, praying for those who abuse us, turning the other cheek, lending while expecting nothing in return, neither judging nor condemning, forgiving. Hard things because they go against our inclinations: our inclination to respond likewise when we're hurt; to hold on to what we have; to point fingers at others; to lend with hope of profit; and to pray mostly for ourselves, our loved ones, and those less powerful than we are. But they're also hard because it's not always clear what Jesus is telling us to do. Turning the other cheek surely doesn't mean accepting abuse: but then what does it mean? When Jesus tells us "do not judge," surely he's not saying we can't point out right from wrong, or speak out against injustice. Yet the line between judging and truth-telling, between condemning and being prophetic is a fuzzy one: we're not always sure which is which. But Jesus, knowing all that, still tells us to act. He warns that to hear only is like building a house without a foundation. A house that will fall as soon as the river rises and the flood comes.
I think most people would agree that the foundation of any solid relationship, the bedrock that allows it to withstand change, hardship, conflict, or loss, is trust. Relationships can weather all kinds of challenges if they're built on trust -- and great is their ruin when they're not. That's true in a marriage - and the reason why trust broken by infidelity can be one of the hardest things for a couple to overcome. That's true for the relationship between pastor and congregation, between friends, between colleagues, between children and parents, between elected officials and those who elect them. It's also true in our relationship with Jesus. And the way we learn to trust Jesus, and the way we show ourselves to be trust-worthy, is to act on his words. When we act, we're trusting that the words of Jesus are true and life-giving, even if they're counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, or counter-practical. When we act on his words not knowing for sure they are his words, not certain if we've discerned rightly, we show another kind of trust: a trust that even if we get it wrong, Christ is beside us still, forgiving us, guiding us, bringing us back on track. We show a trust that allows us to take risks and make mistakes. It's this trust - trust in his instruction and his love - that allows us to do the work Jesus calls us to do. To be his disciples, not just his fans. It's this trust, built through the hearing and the doing of his words, that allows us to build our relationship with Christ with a foundation, on a rock. But if we hear only -- not willing to commit, watching to see which way the wind blows, fearful of making a misstep -- then our relationship with Christ is not built on a solid foundation. The floodwaters can knock it right down. (That's not to say it can't be rebuilt better the next time. We worship a God of second chances).
In the past few months the leadership of Summit has been trying to discern what Jesus is telling us to do in the midst of a budget crisis, a crisis brought on by office vacancies in that part of the building we rent to non-profits, non-profits who have been facing crises of their own. And it hasn't been crystal clear what Jesus is telling us to do. We've struggled with the question of how to be faithful to Christ and reflect his grace to the staff, the tenants, and all who we welcome into the building, neighbors near and far. We've tried to discern how to be faithful to our mission, the mission we believe Christ has called us to, both short term and long term, here in the building and beyond. You've seen the plan that the Session approved; you'll be voting on a piece of it this morning. It may not be crystal clear to you, either, what Jesus is telling you, and telling us to do. I'm sure it will be a very interesting conversation (I'll be here for the beginning, to introduce the motion and answer any questions you may have of me. But for the most interesting part of the discussion I'll be in the yard with Deborah and the kids). But this I believe: that however the congregation votes and the Session acts, as long as it's done prayerfully, listening for Christ's word through the Holy Spirit, we'll be growing in relationship to Christ. Growing in trust and faith, building our house on a firm foundation. For Christ is trustworthy.
And now we go to the table. The table to which Christ invites us; where we act on his words to eat and drink in remembrance of him. The table where, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we're united with Christ and the communion of all the saints. At the table where we give thanks to God for God's love and many blessings, and where we are strengthened for service and love. Let us come to the table.