“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” — Matthew 7:24-27
This passage has held and nourished many returns – my returns to study — over the years. It’s so simple really. To hear and act upon the words of Jesus. Jesus (not church or government or culture). The words he’s just shared (the Sermon on the Mount, not later pronouncements of Tradition).
What is it to hear?
To hear and perceive the Good News in them.
To hear and feel Gospel-style judgment (not condemnation) in them.
To hear and know more of God because of them.
To hear the Truth in silence beneath our hapless and self-centered words.
To hear the pain of this world, as He did.
What is it to act on them?
All of these are to act on them, in the manner Jesus himself acted upon Word:
To submit to their wisdom in hope, obedience and simplicity.
To chew them with earnestness, as a sweet scroll, turning food into life and into waste as well.
To wrestle with them as Jacob, settling for nothing less than blessing.
To resist their use as weapons, as lifeless tools in the hands of prejudice or legalism.
To take upon — as a yoke — an inner meaning which is Life and Spirit.
To embody them as Word-made-flesh, unafraid of our place in the family of things.*
Jesus cried out with lament on another day, “If only you knew the ways that make for peace!” Today, He stills beckons us to the blessing of the universal and nonviolent compassionate spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. When we embrace such a life with our whole being, we must dissolve Ego’s opposition and the backlash of those who themselves are threatened by such grace. But it is truly the way to the life of resilience and witness that is pictured by the house on the rock. It is the life of freedom from judgments, vengeance and prejudice. It is the life that lasts.
Where do you see examples of the steadfast in your life, of the weathering of failure and finitude?
Where do you see the crushing impact of despair, discrimination, or disappointments?
What fresh word of life is for you this day?
*I am invoking Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese here. Check out Panhala for the full text and lots more great poems.