Sunday, November 4, 2012

Light #1: Built on the Rock (Matthew 7,16)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
November 4, 1012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "The Church's One Foundation" (Charles Ore)
Call to Worship: "Light of the Word" Video (Kathy Larson; VBS 2011)
Hymn of Praise: "The Church's One Foundation/I Lay in Zion" (AURELIA; refrain, C. Youngblood)
Song of Praise: "Draw Me Nearer" (Fanny Crosby; Diane Sheets)
The Word in Music: "Built on a Rock" (Jay Althouse)
Song of Sending: "Holy Spirit" (Townend/Getty)
Offering of Music: "Rock of Ages, You Will Stand" (Baloche and Brown)
Hymn of Sending: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (HAMBURG) 
Postlude: "Prelude & Fugue in G Major" (Bach)

"Light #1: Built on the Rock"
(Left-click to play; or right-click to save)
Text: Matthew 7:24-27; 16:13-16 

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

In September we talked about basic Christianity – what it is to believe in and follow Jesus Christ.  In October we talked about the community of Christ – how God draws people together as Christian family for encouragement, worship, and a mission.  In November we are going to focus on that mission – what it means to be a community of Christ-followers, gathered and sent into and for the world. 

November is typically the time we talk about stewardship – that is, giving to the church financially and with time and talents.  This particular November also brings us to an exciting time of raising capital funds for maintaining our facilities, enhancing our worship, and providing for new ministries of welcome, fellowship, and outreach.  As I wrote in this month’s newsletter article, while we must talk about the specifics and logistics of raising those funds, what undergirds the fund-raising is more foundational and central to our lives as those God has called together in Christ to be the Church in this place.

So in my sermons these next few weeks, I want to dig into that foundational and central purpose – the mission and vision that inform and explain the activities of pledging and capital fund-raising.

In keeping with our lighthouse/searchlight imagery, we find some imagery for the next few weeks and for our campaign.  In order to fulfill its purpose, a lighthouse must be built firmly and maintained well.  Likewise, we want to be continually mindful of our spiritual foundation as we seek to maintain both our faith and our facilities.

Built on the Rock (Matthew 7)


I chose two scriptures from Matthew today.  The first comes from Matthew 7 and is a short parable in which Jesus stresses the importance of “building on the rock.”  There is such a thing as building on sand, and the parable makes it clear what foolishness that is.  Storms, rain, flood, and wind easily weaken and demolish such a house; but one built on the rock withstands all that comes against it.

I am reminded of Quay’s sermon from last week.  If we follow Christ, we should expect trouble to come.  There will be persecution and there will be suffering.  And the way through is not to run from such things, but to anchor ourselves in Christ.  He is the strong and firm foundation. 

What does it mean to have a spiritual foundation of rock?  Jesus tells us: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Do you want to have a secure faith, even when storms come?  Then listen to the words of Christ and act on them – follow them.  That was our definition of being a Christian, remember?... believing and following. 

The same holds for when Christ-followers are called into community as the Church.  How can we have a Church founded on the rock of Christ?  We must listen to the words of Jesus and act on them. 

I Will Build My Church (Matthew 16)


The second scripture reading, from Matthew 16, is more explicit.  Jesus asked his followers who people were saying that he was.  After getting several different answers, he asked them who THEY said he was.  Who has been listening?  Who was laying a spiritual foundation of rock?

Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  He has heard and believed.  Jesus tells Simon that he is blessed – truly blessed, for God has put it in his heart to believe and profess this.  Then Jesus says this: “…you are Peter (petros, rock), and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (v. 18)

What a direct connection to the other scripture! Want to talk about how to build one’s Church on the rock?  It must be founded on the most foundational declaration: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Never mind storm and rain; Jesus says that even Hell itself will not prevail against such a Church. 

Whatever else we do and say and become, that must always be at the very heart of our testimony at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!

He is the Christ - the one God sent in love into the world, for the world. He is the Son of the living God - he IS God... God-in-the-flesh, God with us. That declaration of Jesus as God with us in love for the sake of the world not only shapes who we are and what we do; it is the foundation upon which all we are and do is built.

So, when we have a new members class, or a baptism, or examine new officers for leadership, we do not test on knowledge of Presbyterianism or whether you can memorize facts about Good Shepherd’s history.  Our first question, the most important question – in some ways the only question – is “Who is your Lord and Savior?”  That’s the foundation; that’s the rock.

In our preaching, teaching, music, drama, worship, fellowship, service, mission, and more; there are tasks to accomplish, people to help, songs to sing.  But at the very heart of it all is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  He is our foundation; he is our rock.

What Are We Building?


The scripture says that “unless the Lord build the house, the laborers labor in vain.”  Jesus said that Peter didn’t get the answer on his own; God gave him the answer through the Holy Spirit and Peter was faithful to listen and speak.

We could raise a million dollars to strengthen the wood, stone, and mortar of this facility; but if we lose sight of our true foundation, it would be in vain.  So let me be clear.  Good Shepherd exists first and foremost to be a house built on the rock of faith and proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Whatever we build, whatever we do, is being built on THAT foundation.

So, is replacing failing lights, heat, air, phones, and stuff important?  Yes, but in the big picture it is important not first because it takes care of our facility, but because it takes care of a house of God built on the rock that seeks to endure as a testimony to Christ in this place for generations to come.

Who are we and whom do we serve?  Jesus alone; he is our rock and our foundation.  Amen.





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