A House to Be Built

by Ajit John

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 7:22-27

22 “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

Meditation

Not all choices are equal, even in a free society. A hard dig into rock for a structure’s foundation may look downright foolish when a softer terrain is nearby. Jesus compares a rock foundation to a life built on his teachings. There’s freedom here to choose between options, but not all of them are of equal value. Judgments must be made about walls and doors with the future in view. Can this house, like a life, survive either a tsunami or a pandemic?

We attend to Jesus’ words. But who wants to build a life, like a house, tilting towards the poor, or with a security system set off by junior temptations? Jesus taught that a life built like a house on rock might mean that parents joyfully take back a foolish child. Or that walking away from marriage should be extremely rare. And if we are to take his whole life as an all-encompassing word, then this house’s foundation must take on the shape of a cross. This also seems hard at first. But Jesus is saying it is the only way to go if we don’t want everything to collapse around us when storms arise unannounced.

The house on sand, I suppose, is a life built by people indifferent to the things Jesus taught, or built by those who edit his teaching and take the hard bits out. They’re happy absorbing the prevailing empire’s values instead, collecting more than enough registered savings plans, or choosing only friends who might help control an uncertain future. A simple virus can make fools of those who have plugged their ears. “Great was its fall,” said Jesus, of their houses.

To build well, we must listen for his words in the gospels, in the prophets and in the Word made flesh. That Word has built an eternal dwelling place for us. They will call its walls praise.

The Reverend Ajit John is an associate priest at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux, a vibrant multi-ethnic parish in Toronto, Canada.