Scripture: Matthew 7:24-29
Sermon: “Secure in the Storm”
Pastor Todd Buurstra
If you hear a sound like a train coming then hide by the water heater, said my Dad referring to the most reinforced area of the basement in April of 1965. Sunday night services had been canceled because of a Tornado Warning. It was also the first day that my younger brother Dean was home from the hospital. There he slept wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the dirty clothes basket. The wind was whipping outside, and now we could hear hail on the roof, two floors above. Even though it was only about 6 PM it was pitch black outside. My parents were listening to the crackling sounds of the radio for weather updates. I was listening for my train. I felt excited in a scared sort of way.
I asked my parents, will we be safe? Yes, because the tornado will only destroy what’s above ground. It was later that they told me about the ’54 tornado that had taken my neighbor’s roof off and smashed their little camping trailer up against the woods out back so that years later I was still finding pieces. Back then my parents didn’t know where to hide so they hunkered down behind the fireplace on the first floor (the most dangerous place) and watched lightning crack through the blown out windows just a yard away.
That night in ’65 the tornado skipped over us but touched down just north of us. Later my third grade teacher talked about watching it with her arms in the doorjamb and a grandchild under each arm as their mailbox and garbage can swirled away. But I was safe
We are in a storm today. For some its catastrophic; for many it has yet to touch down. Our storm may be financial as companies lay off us/friends and the stock market strains to recover. Or our storm may be a shouting match at a healthcare townhall meeting: can we keep our insurance, or will the government mess things all up? Or our storm may be relational where the outer swirls cause inner turmoil so that a woman recently said to me about her love life: I just need to feel safe. Where is God’s security in life’s storms?
Now Jesus’ audience was saturated with religious words, both in their culture and at the conclusion of this Sermon on the Mount. Jewish males of Jesus’ day memorized the entire first five books of the Hebrew Testament! But is security found only in God’s word? Jesus likens folks who only listen to sermons to a fool who builds his house on the sandy wadi at the foot of a mountain. When the winter rains cascade down the mountain his house is washed away. But the wise man who builds his house on the rock that can withstand the storms is the one who listens to God’s word and does it. Word and deed.
The Gospel of Matthew is organized around creed and deed. After each teaching section, of which this Sermon on the Mount is the first, there is an action section. If you turn with me to Matthew 8 and 9, you find nothing but mighty deeds. In the very next verses Jesus touches a leper, healing him. Then Jesus touches Peter’s mother-in-law curing her fever and restoring their family—or giving Peter more mother-in-law jokes to tell. Later Jesus calms the storm so that his friends’ fishing business wouldn’t capsize.
So let’s apply Jesus’ creed and deed to today’s storms which I mentioned before.
What might Jesus say to our financial storm? And what might be our response? I think that amidst faltering markets and rising unemployment Jesus prevents our boat from tipping by commanding, Peace! Be still! But the dead calm to which Matthew refers needs to happen within us. So our deed may be to take a deep breath and live calmly—be still and know. Only the pairing of Jesus’ command with our peaceful living grants security
What might Jesus say to our healthcare storm? And what might be our response? One of my Grandmother’s favorite names for Jesus deepened my love for the gospel healings. She taught me to love the name, the great physician. And certainly we see Jesus often reaching out and touching a leper, or a blind man, or the demon possessed, as in chs 8 and 9. So bringing this to our healthcare debate does Jesus’ healing ministry mean that healthcare is a right? Or is access to it a goal? Or is it an earned privilege? I know I’m mixing theology and law here, but I think they relate. I don’t think its an earned privilege because that implies that life is more about our ability than God’s grace. But I’m also not sure that it’s a right because then we’d be able to demand God or the government just take care of us. I’ll settle for access to healthcare is a goal. What about you? So Jesus says, I heal. And our response? We have to figure out the best way for people, rich and poor, to have access to great physicians for healing. I don’t think we shout over each other with our preferred way to do it, but our deed must be a robust debate! Only the belief that healthcare is good won’t do much until our robust debate leads to the best way to do it.
And lastly, what might Jesus say to our relational storm? And what might be our response? This is simpler. We see Jesus restoring Peter’s family by cooling his mother-in-law’s fever. In relationships, Jesus always helps us to stammer, I love you. That’s our creed, and so our deeds must be loving actions. If my wife needs financial security and I just sit on the couch with remote in hand and say I love you, that won’t cut it. Or if your spouse needs some physical affection, but you prefer to just say, I love you, that doesn’t cut it either. Words alone won’t secure love, loving actions are needed to confirm it.
I don’t know what your storm is this morning. I don’t know if you hear the hail on the roof, and the wind whipping. But I ask you to pick a deed in these moments of quiet prayer to match your creed so that you can find security on the rock. Amen.
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