The Life Of Faith Which Can Withstand The Storms
July 19, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The parable of Jesus which I read to you today is one of my favorites that I used to hear in church school when I was small. The wise man builds his house upon the rock. The foolish man builds his house upon the sand. The church school teacher told the story of these two men in a funny and amusing way. The one guy built his house upon the rock. The other guy built his house upon the sand. As seen from the outside, they both don't seem to be any different from each other. But, soon the storm winds came. The rain fell, and the winds blew in severely. Finally the river overflowed. But, the house on the rock was safe. It didn't give an inch. But, the house on the sand ended up collapsing.
2. "Come on tell me, which of them was wise? Was it the man who had built his house upon the rock? Or was it the man who had built his house upon the sand?" The children answered all at once. "The man who built upon the rock!" The teacher said, "Listen everybody, let's be like the wise man, okay!?" -- After saying something like that, then I think I heard, "That's right. You gotta become wise." Perhaps the teacher would say a bit something more. But, I wasn't listening properly and unfortunately I don't remember that far. As a matter of fact, the reason I realized that what Jesus had said was completely different from it is because of what comes straight after that [in the text].
A Challenge For The Impossible
3. [I hardly think] Jesus is giving a lesson in today's passage about "Let's be wise thinking way out ahead, okay!?" No, he isn't, but he is giving a speech about whether you will be a person who hears and does Jesus' words or whether you will be a person who only hears and doesn't do them. He says: "So now, everyone who hears these words of mine and practices them is like the wise man who built his house upon the rock." "Everyone who only hears these words of mine and does not do them is like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand." What's more, [scholars] think that where the text says "these words" is pointing directly to the section from chapters five to seven in The Gospel According To Matthew, the section called "The Sermon On The Mount." Since that's [the context], it becomes clear that this is not a story to be heard as funny and amusing.
4. For example, what immediately comes to mind when I say "The Sermon On The Mount" might be the words, "If somebody strikes you on the right cheek, then turn your left cheek [to him or her] as well," (5:39). Or it might be the words, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you!," (5:44). Are these simple to do? There are not a few books that touch upon "The Sermon On The Mount," and so as often as it is argued, the topic of "whether or not it is capable of being put into practice" comes up. Read normally, you can't help thinking, "It is impossible" any way you look at it. When I used to be a student, a friend challenged me, "You claim to be a Christian, so, if I strike your right cheek, will you stick out your left cheek?" At that time I said, "Are you trying to test me? But, I can't do exactly like Jesus is saying, so if I hit you back with two or three blows, forgive me." -- In fact, at that time, I didn't used to think that the words of Jesus were capable of being put into practice, not a tad bit of it.
5. About those words, in today's passage Jesus says: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and practices them is like the wise man who built his house upon the rock." "Everyone who only hears these words of mine and does not do them is like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand." Jesus does not take issue at all, from the beginning, on whether this is capable of being put into practice or not. As a matter of course, he speaks assuming that it will not end only in one's hearing.
6. When I read today's passage, I think again: What only seems impossible from our view does not appear impossible at all in Jesus' eyes. I see that clearly. In other words, Jesus can see things that look totally different from how we see them. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is near," (4:17). The kingdom of heaven is not far away in the way out there beyond. The world God rules has already arrived. God has come and has begun something entirely new. It was visible to Jesus. Those who hear the words of Jesus are already amidst the great work of God. It has already been visible to Jesus. Therefore, though it may be impossible as seen from a human perspective, it was not impossible in the eyes of Jesus.
7. Furthermore, Jesus said, "Pray like this. 'O our father who is in heaven, may your name be worshipped! May your kingdom come! May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!'," (6:9-10). To Jesus the disciples, who were before his eyes, already looked like children of God. Those who hear the words of Jesus are a flock from the children of the Almighty God. They are a flock of children of God who can seek on earth as well that which is done in heaven. If I go a bit further with it, Jesus knows where he is going and what he is about to accomplish. Jesus understands that the hour is coming when he will be crucified and the atonement for sin will be accomplished. As it were, we could even make the case that Jesus was seeing there the children of God who have already had their sins atoned for, this figure of the children of God, where there was no longer anything dividing them from the heavenly father. Therefore, no matter how impossible it may be as seen from a human perspective, it is not impossible if seen from Jesus' perspective.
8. God's children can live as God's children. While in this passing world [we] can live as the people of heaven. If we're done wrong, to pay them back lies within the world's expectations, but loving our enemies is also a possibility. Even though around the world it is a time for worrying, it is possible to live set free from worries. It's true. If seen from Jesus' perspective, it has all been possible, if it was what the heavenly father willed, then it has all been possible. Therefore, Jesus sends the disciples out to this new kind of life through his words, through the words that had the authority of God. It's true, and Jesus has sent us out to this new kind of life. It is our faith life.
9. As a result then, in the faith life, there is constantly a side to it known as "the challenge towards the impossible." Without saying it in too sluggish of a way, maybe I should express it as "The faith life could be defined as a challenge towards the impossible." -- Because even though it may be impossible as seen from our perspectives, Jesus says it is possible. If we see the arrival of the kingdom of God as Jesus sees it, if we see ourselves as the children of God as Jesus sees us, if we see the church as the family of God composed of the children of God, as Jesus sees it, if we believe the existence of Jesus and his words in that way, then we ought to behave and act based on that faith. Faith and action are impossible to be separated from each other. James put it this way, "Faith unaccompanied by works is dead," (James 2:26). Thus, since Jesus sees it is possible, then based on faith we too will take up the challenge for the impossible. For example, based on faith, we take up the challenge to love the enemies we cannot love. We take one step in that direction. This could very well be a meaning to "Those who hear and do these words of mine."
The Faith Life That Will Not Fall To Floods Or Winds
10. Furthermore, we are taught by the scriptures, that when we act based on faith, the work of God will be revealed in it. When we take a step in obedience to Christ, we will come to see the work of the Holy Spirit, which brings forth the rule of God. Please recall the passage of scripture for last week. Last week I read to you Joshua chapter six. As the Lord had told them to, the Israelites went around the periphery of Jericho which was surrounded by solid walls of defense. They went around it once a day, for six days. On the seventh day, they went around it seven turns. Why [did they]? Because they believed that God had already delivered Jericho into the hands of Israel. Because even though it seemed impossible in human eyes from every direction, they believed that God would knock down the walls. Therefore, they went around it based on faith. All last week I could not get out of my head Israel going around the periphery of Jericho. Each day I recalled this figure of theirs. When the walls collapsed by God's work on the seventh day, the scripture says, "Each of the people rushed in from their positions and took possession of the city," (Joshua 6:21). They were going around making preparations perfectly. They went around holding heavy swords and having heavy armor on their bodies. Imagining when the walls would collapse, they walked around making preparations perfectly. Sincerely believing the walls would fall, they took up the impossible challenge of the capture of Jericho, as it were.
11. "Everyone who hears these words of mine and practices them," which Jesus said, means, sort of, to be like those people who went around the periphery of Jericho. This is not a statement that we should hear legalistically by any means. He is not saying, "You must hear and do them in order to enter the kingdom of God. You must become a doer." This is the activity of faith, that "Because the kingdom of God has already begun, we believe what we've heard and we can do it." And we too will come to see things like the walls of Jericho crumbling.
12. And this kind of life of faith will become that which is able to withstand the storms. Unless it becomes that way, it will not withstand the storms. The words of "The rain fell, the river overflowed, and the storms blew ..." will take on various meanings. We could also say that it could be the many different trials and tribulations in this world, we could also say that it is the problem of your own "death" which everybody must ultimately face, and we could also say it is the judgment at the last day. The floods and the storms are made as symbols of the real world where the strength of humanity, at any rate, is not up to the tasks before it. The real world of reality, before which the strength of humanity is not up to the tasks, makes its assaults [upon everyone]. And the time is coming when our very being will be shaken from the foundation. If our faith lives are only the kind that "hears and knows the words of Jesus," then we will not be able to withstand the storms. "The words of Jesus are fine as words, but they are impossible in the real world. I know the teachings of the Bible, however, I can't go by them exactly when it comes to reality." By claiming like that that they are impossible to do in the real world, we are also refusing to take up the challenge against the impossible. We are refusing to even put into practice a little thing like going around the periphery of the walls of Jericho. Whenever [a person's] faith life is the kind Jesus expressed as everyone "who only hears these words of mine and does not do them," [he or she] will end up toppling down by the floods and the storms.
13. The ones who do not end up toppling down by the floods and the winds are the faith lives [of the persons] who live and see themselves as Jesus sees, who see the real world as Jesus sees. That the kingdom of God has begun, that [we] are in the midst of the amazing mighty works of God, that we are the children of God living amid all this. It is the faith life whereby we turn our eyes on all this, and live all the while saying, "I am following the words of Jesus. It is not impossible for us to trust in God." "Everyone who hears these words of mine and practices them is like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. Even though the rain fell, the rivers overflowed, the storms blew, and it assailed that house [of yours], it did not crumble and fall," says Jesus. That's right. Jesus is ready to give us this kind of life of faith.