On Solid Ground – November 13, 2022, Margaret Lacy playing Organ

Psalm 29, Matthew 7:15-29
November 13, 2022

This reading from Matthew is the very last part of Jesus’ most famous speech “The Sermon on the Mount.”  These are his last words that day.  And this final illustration is about the wise man who built his house upon the solid ground – the rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand.

Now, let me start with a disclaimer.  As I was writing this sermon, then “tropical storm” Nicole was still far off the coast of Florida.  And I was hoping at the time that it wouldn’t be a bad storm for those people – again!  And it doesn’t seem that it was.  It was certainly not as bad as the last one!  And I was hoping I could use this subject today – and it wouldn’t be so ominous.

Thank heavens it wasn’t.  And it doesn’t overshadow the story Jesus told and the way he presented it.  Because what he said that day makes sense to us, doesn’t it?  You need a good foundation if you’re going to build!  Especially when you’re facing the bad storms!  So the foolish man here does seem foolish to us, doesn’t he?  And he would have seemed foolish to the people listening to Jesus that day!  They would have heard Jesus describe the fall of this man’s house and they would have murmured, “Well, yeah!  Of course the house fell!”  (I think there was a lot of murmuring during Jesus’ speeches!)

They knew, as we know, that a good building must have a good foundation.  Think about it.  Why does the “Leaning Tower of Pizza” lean?  Because they didn’t do a very good job with the foundation!  I understand they’ve done a lot of work to stabilize it in recent years!  But they kept it the way it was!  They didn’t straighten it back up!  They kept the “lean,” because it was too iconic!  (Otherwise it would be the “until recently leaning tower of Pizza.?)

I once heard a story that when they built the library at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, they had a problem with the building “sinking” because the engineers who designed the foundation forgot to take into account the weight of the books.  However, I must make another disclaimer here!  I couldn’t find that on the web!  And according to several internet sites, such stories are “college legends” that have been going around for years – at many schools!   So if you have any information on that one, I’d be glad to hear it!  But whether or not the story – or stories – are true, it simply makes sense that a good building must have a good foundation. 

So, here we have the wise man and the foolish man.  Their houses stood or fell, as the case may be.  And as you think about them, think about the use of the word “house” as part of this story.  We often use that word as a metaphor for a person’s life, or even their faith.  When we talk about improving our lives, or better organizing our lives, we say we’re “getting our house in order.”  And we talk about our faith in the same way.  We talk about “getting our ‘spiritual house’ in order.”

So Jesus is using a good metaphor here!  (He may even have been creating it!  I’m not sure.)  And as he does, what does he allude to as being the good foundation for our “house?”  It is doing all the things he had been talking about.  So, this illustration of the wise and foolish men is being used to describe people who hear all the things Jesus said in this sermon, and “do them,” or “do not do them.”  As James put it in his letter, it’s a matter of being “doers of the word or hearers only.”  (I wonder if James was there that day to hear this sermon.)

There’s one more reference that Jesus was using that day that would have been meaningful to those people listening.  Those who “do the word” are like the man who built on the solid ground.  Or more specifically here, on “the Rock.”  And throughout their scriptures, and ours, rock is used as a metaphor to describe God.  God is our rock, with all its firmness and solidity.  That means he is the source of our strength and our protection.  Psalm 18 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.  God is my rock in whom I take refuge.”  (Psalm 18:2.)  That reference would not have been lost on the people who heard it that day.  And I think we get it, too.

So, here at the end of this famous sermon, Jesus is asking the people this question.  “You’ve heard me say all these things, now, are you going to do them?”  And the same question stands today.  “You know the things Jesus taught.  Will you do them?”  Will you heed his words?  Will you follow him?  Or will you be one of many people who just “believe in” him.

Being doers of the word, as James put it, is the foundation of our faith.  Jesus is telling us that’s how we keep our “spiritual house in order!”  And that’s what keeps it from crumbling when the winds and waves beat against it.  So, if you think your faith is crumbling, when the wind and floods and tropical storms of life are battering you and you aren’t sure about the stability of your “spiritual house,” ask yourself, are you doing what Jesus taught?  It’s pretty straightforward!  It makes sense, doesn’t it?

And one last thought.  Sometimes it’s not just a matter of doing what Jesus says.  Sometimes it’s a matter of doing what we say!  Isn’t it?  Because, as you know, it’s easier to talk about our faith than it is to live our faith.  Isn’t it?  As the modern expression goes, it’s easier to “talk the talk,” than it is to “walk the walk.”

That’s another reason pledging is a good thing – like we did last week.  It’s not just talking about Stewardship, it’s doing stewardship.  And in pledging, we make a plan to live our life of stewardship.  And our pledge challenges us to do what we said.  It helps us “follow through,” as the song we just sang says.  It keeps us on course.  It reminds us that faith is all about the living, not just the talking.  It’s about the doing, not just the hearing.

So, is your faith “on solid ground?”  Are you hearing the words of Jesus and doing them?  Are you living the faith, and not just talking about it?  Because… (as the old hymn says,)

 “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”


Help us, Lord, to hear the words of Jesus and do them.  Help us to hear the voice of your Spirit and follow.  Help us to be the people you want us to be, people who live our faith every day, help us to be the “city set on the hill,” so that, through us, all may see your love and Grace.  For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!