TEXT: Luke 6:46-49

I am learning more about my new cabin all the time. Recently one of the neighbors stopped by for a visit and announced that he had helped the original owner to build the place. One critical bit of information I learned from this was that the cabin I bought was not the original cabin on the site. The first one, it seems, washed away! The land originally was just a steep slope down to the river. The first owner cut away part of the hill and built the cabin. Apparently, however, not enough attention was paid to the foundation and when the rains came, it washed the cabin right down into the river. The second time they built, they were much more careful, and it has stood now for almost 30 years. Hopefully it will stand another 30, since I really wanted a cabin and not a houseboat.

The guy in the parable from Luke knew about all of that. He built a great little place on the sand, only to have it washed away in a flash flood…a common occurrence in the dry wadis of Palestine. But Jesus wasn't just giving advice to construction workers when he told this parable. It certainly is good advice for builders, but Jesus meant us to apply it to the building of our lives. Last week we looked at our motivation for building…realizing that we are to build for God's glory rather than our own. God calls us to build a structure that will be a blessing to others. The parable for this week shows that building is also futile if we don't pay attention to the foundation. What our lives look like won't make a bit of difference if the foundation isn't solid.

Those of you who have been closely involved with a building project know that site selection and preparation are very important and often time consuming steps. The original builders of my cabin may have thought they were home free since no one had ever built on the property before, but it was far from being ready to start cutting wood. They had to first haul some of the side of the mountain away (where have I heard that metaphor before?) and build a strong foundation before they could build their special retreat in the woods.

We may have decided to build a new life for ourselves, but we are not starting with a clean slate, either. Even when we start building at birth, we still have certain life circumstances that need to be considered and prepared. A chance to improve our lives is not the same as the elimination of our past. We come to the task with a complex building site. Our lives are not unspoiled wilderness. The building sites of our lives are already covered with other structures.

There are the remains of buildings we condemned long ago, but never got around to tearing down. There are the concrete slabs and pylons for buildings we began in other years but have never finished. There are finished structures that are beautiful but no longer have any purpose, and trees and gardens we have grown and tended that need to be worked into the new plan. To complicate matters, scattered around the site are landmines, threatening any new structure until they can be unearthed and disarmed, while a few feet below the surface are archeological treasures that will be lost forever if a permanent structure is built over them. It's kind of like rebuilding Iraq. It's a big job, and it will require substantial resources just to prepare the site for building. This is the job Jesus is describing. It's not the fun part, as any kid with a new set of Legos will tell you. The building is what's fun--cleaning up your room so you have space to build is not.

This morning I want to help you think about building or rebuilding your life. It is God's gift to us. We are given each day, each year in trust--we are the stewards of the time God has given to us and the biological life God has breathed into us. How will we use it? Do we use it wisely? Do we build things that will last or just things that will satisfy the moment? What have we done with the building materials of our lives in the time God has given to us?

I doubt that any of us has used them fully. All of us have at least part of our lives that need renovation. We might need to add a room, tear down a wall or two, make the entrance more accessible. Some of us might need to condemn the whole structure and start over or pick up the pieces after a bad storm. What I want to do this morning is a little different. I want to give you some areas of your life to think about. After I have mentioned each one and given some examples, I will stop and give you a moment just to think about how those things might apply in your life. From those thoughts, you can then begin to form some building plans for the days and years ahead.

The first thing to think about is the foundation for your life. What is your foundation? Have you built on a major fault line? On what have you based your life--in what are you trusting? Your income or assets? Your family? Your health or abilities? All of those areas are like building in a flood plain or on a fault line. They can all meet with disaster and be taken from you. If they are your foundation, your life washes away with them. What is it that you think you can't survive without? If it is anything other than the God revealed in Jesus Christ, your foundation is not secure. Your foundation is whatever you consider above all else when you are thinking of making a change. What is that thing? Think for a moment and be honest with yourself about what anchors your life. (Pause)

If your foundation is something other than God, your job for the new year is demolition. You've got to tear down the whole business and start over on a new and better foundation…not because God will punish you if you don't, but because the foundation is not secure. Put time effort and money into the effort if you want, but it's not going to hold up in a storm. Completely rebuilding is one of the toughest jobs there is, but it is easier when YOU plan the demolition than when destruction takes you by surprise. It means re-ordering priorities and making those new priorities manifest in your life. It might mean changing jobs or drastically altering how and where you spend your time. It's hard, but it's the only way to build on the Rock.

Even if your foundation IS in God, the Rock of our salvation, it still pays to give it some attention. Bring in the pest control...let inspectors have access. Reinforce the structure with prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. The building of our lives needs constant attention and upkeep, and that care should always begin with an inspection of the foundation. Take a moment to think about what you might do to strengthen or change your foundation. (Pause)

Now let's look at the rest of the buildings on the property. Do you have condemned buildings that need to come down--old habits that you know spoil the view but you've never gotten around to taking care of? Work or social relationships that are not good for you that you need to tear down and haul away? What are the things that you have already condemned as unfit for your life but have never gotten around to removing? Think for a moment about the condemned buildings in your life. (Pause)

If you have some condemned buildings, that is your next task. They're ugly. They devalue your property. Get rid of them and see how much more beautiful it looks.

And how about unfinished buildings? Are there things that you have started in years past that remain unfinished? Projects that you still believe have purpose and meaning that you would like to return to? Good habits that you started once but didn't continue? Relationships that were important once but that have been neglected? Skills that you began to learn but never followed through? A degree you began but never finished? A calling of God you have been ignoring? What are the unfinished buildings in your life that you know, deep down, are still important? Think about them for a moment. (Pause)

There are few things more tragic than watching someone spend all their energies propping up condemned buildings and having nothing left over for tending to the things that they truly love and enjoy. People slave away at jobs they hate and miss the joy of watching their children grow. Others pour everything into hopeless or abusive relationships and miss the joys of mutual love and respect. Some are driven by guilt to provide services that they are not equipped to perform, while the things for which they are truly gifted remain undone. Your task may be to shift your energies away from the things you are maintaining out of guilt to things that you can create out of love. Think about how you might do that (Pause).

Sometimes the sites of our lives have historical buildings on them. These are finished buildings, buildings that are still sound, still beautiful, but may be standing in the way of some new part of your life that needs to be built. They should not be knocked down, but they do need to be moved to a secondary site. Are you living in the past? Are all your stories tales of past achievements, family that is gone, work that was completed years ago? Take a minute to think about the historical buildings in your life--memories that have left no room for the new life you want to build. (Pause)

It may be your task for the new year to gingerly and lovingly move these buildings to the background--to allow yourself to go on in the present without carrying the full weight of the past. To let yourself be the person you are now, instead of the person you used to be.

And how about landmines? Are there grudges or bitterness that have been buried without the diffusing power of forgiveness? Are there problems in our lives that we have tried to force out of sight through denial? Are there unacknowledged fears or sins or problems or grief that could threaten the integrity of our new building? Think about these. (Pause)

If you have landmines, they are job number one. There's no sense in putting energy into building something when a bomb nearby will merely blow it to smithereens. You have got to work to get out the landmines that will sabotage your site. Get the help you need to get this done.

Then there are the archeological treasures. Are there treasures in your life that remain buried? Are there talents you have not developed, calls from God that you have ignored, beautiful aspects of your personality that you have never taken the time to discover and nurture? Don't go on with your building until you have unearthed the treasures beneath. There may be resources there to help with the building. What do people always say you're good at? When are people most grateful for your work? What sort of tasks really pick up your energy and make you feel excited? Think about what treasure might be lying below the surface of your life. (Pause)

It might be that you just need to add a room. Is your building nice, but a bit cramped? Your building might be in pretty good shape. You will still have to do the yearly maintenance and upkeep, of course, but if things are going pretty well and the foundation is strong, you may want to dream some dreams and add a room or two or perhaps a workshop or guest cottage. Take a moment to dream--whether you are adding on or having to start from scratch. What does your ideal building look like? What is the vision you have for your life? What do you think is the vision God has for your life? Who and what would you be if you could be and do anything? (Pause)

From these things comes the work for our lives. We won't get it done all at once...that's OK, choose the task for which you have the resources. If nothing else, begin to gather resources...read more Scripture, add to your prayer time, build a solid Christian relationship or two. Lift each area up to God in prayer. Let the master architect have input in your life and your plans.

Whether our site is unspeakably cluttered, almost clear, or cleared and built on a fault line, every day gives us the opportunity to work for a better life, a life founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, both individually and together as a church. This is where faith and life meet. We are not gathered here (I hope) just because we have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning. We are gathered here to become better people, to become the people that God intended for us to be, so that we can help make the world the beautiful place that God intended for it to be. How will you build your life?


Sermon (c) 2003, Anne Robertson

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