“Great Was the Ruin”
Sermon on Luke 6:46-49
Lections for Epiphany 8-C
May 24, 2009
The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
This parable has really come alive to me in a new way this past week. My father and I have always been suckers for the newest technological thing, especially when it comes to televisions. Now don’t get the wrong idea about me, both televisions in our house were given to us free. But deep down I yearn for one of those 50” flat screen things that can hang over the fireplace.
At my parents’ house the living room is one of those A-frame deals with this big floor to ceiling stone fireplace. When they got the house I remarked to my father that the only thing it is missing is one of those 50” flat screens over the mantle. I joked with my father that his life just wouldn’t be complete without such a television as that, or at least that’s what all the television companies want me to think. Every time we were up there with him, I’d make a comment about how nice it would be to watch the ball game on one of those big flat screens. And then it happened, my father called me to say that he had picked up a 50” flat screen television at an auction that was only a year old.
My jaw dropped to the floor and I couldn’t believe that my father actually bought one of those. I joked that his life was now complete–as soon as he got somebody to put it up for him. He said that he was going to have his business partner, Jeff, put it up for him. Well, I had a bad feeling about that arrangement. You see, Jeff isn’t exactly the kind of guy you want performing open heart surgery on you or installing a flat screen TV. Jeff likes things done quickly, cheaply, and with a minimum amount of effort on his part. He once hired an electrician to work on a building he and my father own whose name was “Animal,” and it was Jeff’s standard operating procedure to pay construction workers in beer. So, I had a bad feeling about it.
Sure enough, a few days later my father called me. I asked him how he was enjoying his new television and he said that it hung over the fireplace for three minutes before it came crashing down six feet onto the rock below! My heart sank. I had to ask if it still worked, and always the optimist, my father said that it would work as an excellent paper weight or door stop but that its TV days were over.
He said that it was just lying there on the floor next to the fireplace and that it just about made him cry every time he looked at it. He wondered if I might be able to come up and take it away for him because the thing weighed over a hundred pounds. I told him I would. And when I got there and saw the remnant that used to be this wonderful television lying on the floor I couldn’t help but examine how it had been attached to the stonework. Jeff used anchors, but he used screws that were only about two and a half inches long. He had rigged up a few 2×6’s on the back of the television and so that left all of about ¾ of an inch for the screws to actually go into the rock. Some of the screws simply snapped from the weight and others bent, but none were deep enough to anchor this masterpiece of technology lying broken on the floor in front of me.
Our gospel lesson from Luke is the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock. It’s one of the most simple and yet most profound stories that Jesus ever told. It’s common sense at its finest. Houses built without a foundation don’t last, and houses built on rock do. But there’s more to it than just that. The wise man didn’t just build his house on a rock, he “dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock.” He dug deeply into the rock. Oh that my father’s business partner Jeff might have read this parable before he attempted to hang that television.
This is a lesson on the importance of digging deep. It’s not enough just to have the foundation built on the rock—we must dig deeply into the rock as well. I had never noticed those words in the parable before this week—“he dug deeply.” But I’ll never forget them now. This is essential to our life as followers of Jesus. It isn’t enough to have a foundation simply built on rock. It isn’t enough to have a shallow foundation on the rock that has a little bit of depth to it but not much. The only way that is acceptable is if we dig deeply into the rock.
I brought my drill to show you this morning. This is hands down the single best tool one can own. And I brought two different bits to show you. One is tiny, and the other is large. One is meant for pre-drilling holes so that a piece of wood doesn’t split when you put a nail or screw in it, and the other is meant for going deep.
When it comes to faith, Jesus is reminding us of the importance of digging deep! I think most Christians haven’t been digging deep enough when it comes to our spiritual foundations. Far too often we are content to give lip service alone to our faith. Far too often we are content with not even coming near to Jesus or hearing his word, much less acting on it. It is to you and me that Jesus speaks this word this morning, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them.” Then Jesus goes on to say that the wise person is someone who digs deep and lays the foundation on rock, etc. But Jesus isn’t telling us about the construction business here or the proper ways to hang a high definition television. Jesus is counseling us about our faith, our beliefs, and our actions.
I’ll never forget hearing about how that flat screen TV fell off the fireplace. If something is that important, it seems only natural to put it up properly and securely. Everybody I’ve told this story to has simply recoiled in horror when they hear it. They can’t believe someone would be so lax about something so expensive. And yet, this sort of thing happens all the time with peoples’ souls. Every day a person, who is infinitely more valuable than a television, falls off and crashes to the ground—and nobody recoils in horror when they hear about it. I hear stories all the time of addiction, suicide, depression, infidelity, and hate. The fact of the matter is that our society cares more about nice televisions than it does people.
The crazy thing about it is this—the television looked fine, until gravity got a hold of it. The two houses in today’s parables looked fine until the storms came. Let me remind you that storms will come into your life. But what matters is not what happens to you but what your foundation is like. And just like with matters of home improvement, there are two ways to do it—quick and easy and cheap; or difficult and longer and more expensive. A TV isn’t going to change anybody’s life, but you can. High-definition circuitry isn’t going to connect a person to anything, but you can. And you are much more important than some silly television. So don’t you dare fail to dig deep when it comes to your faith. As I told my father, your life just won’t be complete otherwise. Amen.