Becoming Church –Building on the foundation

Sermon Notes for 06102012 – Zechariah 8:1-23

Luke 6: 46 “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.

Hebrews 5: You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. 6: 1 Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, 2 instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Jesus says that coming to him, hearing him, and obeying him is how we lay a foundation.

    These we might call the basic teaching of Christ.

There is also according to the author of Hebrews another kind of foundation

    Basic teaching about Christ

I would suggest we think of these not as two different foundations, but as the slab and reinforcing, the wall and the footer, the pier and beam, of the foundation. One is the basic foundation, while the other strengthens, supports and reinforces.

  • A footing without a perimeter wall is not a foundation, it’s just rock buried under ground.
  • A perimeter wall without a footing can support a building, but not well, and not through all the changes that the building and its environment will experience.
  • The better the reinforcing, the better the foundation can do its job, which is to support the building in good times and in bad.

The writers of Luke, Hebrews and Zechariah are clear that the foundation is based in a way of understanding and relating to God, and living that relationship out in the world. All three authors describe essentially the same kind of life.

And they also seem clear that building on that foundation is in part about continuing to return to those founding principles.

Around here, most house foundations are slab on grade, with a perimeter wall and active reinforcement. Even some of those have problems. Certainly many older foundations that are simply a slab, without perimeter wall or reinforcement will get severe cracks because of shifting soils. We can water the foundation and try to minimize the shifting, but ultimately we can not prevent it. So if the foundation gets problems, then we have to call in another kind of expert, one who repairs the foundation – providing it the kind of support it lacked from the beginning.

That is an interesting process, and one which some of you have experienced firsthand at your own homes. As I understand it, the problem often shows itself first in clear but small ways – doors stick, sheetrock separates at corners, perhaps a tile floor cracks. Next there may be a crack in the brick exterior wall. Finally a water or gas leak in or under the foundation will reveal itself. By then the problem is often extensive.

So at some point along this path you realize there is a problem. But not many of us in this room are qualified to fully diagnose such things, much less have the knowledge or skill to repair them, so we call in a professional – someone trained in foundation work. This person will run some tests, make some recommendations and give a bid for the work. Once you return to consciousness and get up off the floor, then you have a conversation about the fact that there really isn’t a choice. And the good news is that once this work is done, if the preventive maintenance is continued from that point on, there should not be any more difficulty of this kind.

So this foundation work entails providing a new support structure for the existing foundation, one that goes deep enough that shifting soils will not impact it.

When applied to the church, what this suggests is that:

  1. Problems don’t develop overnight.
  2. The sooner you catch an issue, the easier it is to address
  3. Doing more work up front saves time, effort, head and heart ache later
  4. Weak foundations can be repaired
  5. A strong foundation supports the structure and shelter for a vital and vibrant life

One other critical point arises from these passages – the blessings of a life lived in a house built on a firm foundation. For Luke, the foundation story is a means to understand the beatitudes. Blessed are… Blessed are… Blessed are…

And the woes. Woe to you… Woe to you… Woe to you…

Zechariah paints such a beautiful picture of life in God’s community – it’s a foretaste of the kingdom of God, a foreshadowing of Jesus’ kingdom parables, and a rehearsal for that life foretold by the Hebrew Prophets and by John’s Revelation – A blessed community where God dwells in the midst of God’s people. A place where God’s people live in an abundance that meets every need, for themselves, and for the nations who are drawn to experience God’s bounty. This is who the church is called to be. It is who we are. Yes, life in community as God’s church is difficult. The Way of Jesus is impossible for us on our own – to love our enemies, and call brother and sister those with whom we so strongly disagree on things that to us seem critically important. And yet that is exactly what God asks of us. It is exactly that toward which God calls and empowers us. It is why we are new creatures in Christ. Among the greatest joys in life are those to be found in the church when broken people are made whole, when the dead in spirit find new life, when the obsessed, oppressed, and possessed find freedom and release. When the addict gets clean, when the self-hater discovers self-love, when the narcissist discovers God’s love, when the shamed and guilt-ridden experience forgiveness, when the self-righteous discover grace, when sinners receive mercy, when the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, when the widow and orphan find a home, when the hungry and thirsty are satisfied, when those who walk in darkness see light.

We are the Body of Christ, the blessed continuation of the incarnation of the one anointed to bring Good News. Church, we are Good News, because we are God’s instruments, God’s vessels, God’s holy Temple. Let us live the truth that scripture proclaims over us, that we are blessed to be a blessing.

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