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14th April 2024

Luke 6: 46-49 Jo Patterson

Passage: Luke 6: 46-49

As a child I was taught by my grandfather and then my father to build sandcastles on the beach at Filey where we would have annual holiday. We would make boats and traditional castles and then defend them from the ravages of the sea when the tide came in, which it does twice a day. We continue this tradition now and have made many things like mermaids and octopus and more boats!

The building seems pointless in that nothing lasts. But there is fun in the construction, the creativity and the defence against nature where pirates and sea monsters compete in a seemingly thankless task. But there is lot of joy and there is no price or limit on joy.

The reason sandcastles are so sturdy on that particular beach is that the sand is thick and wet. It holds together and needs a lot of work by the power of the sea to wash it away. It is not just blown away it is purposefully destroyed.

In our reading today we have to set Jesus in a biblical space by looking before and after the passage, nothing is in isolation. This is a parable from the sermon on the mount – or actually plain if you read Luke’s version – he starts on the mountain with the disciples but actually comes down the mountain to a level place – maybe it is more sturdy for him and the listeners, less like a rollercoaster. He has been challenged by the pharisees to not do things on the sabbath, like feeding people and healing them, and he then prays – always good – chooses his disciples – also a good move as it turns out – and then he comes down to a sure footed place to teach. And let’s note here, to teach everyone who comes, not just the disciples.

We then have the blessings or beatitudes and some other parables. This is the last parable of this sermon - interestingly called ‘sayings’ in the next chapter – it feels like there is a sense of urgency when he says ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I tell you?’ I need them to get it, I need them to really hear it.

The clever thing for me about this story is lots of people have a house – some don’t. Not everyone has the same house but it is relatable thing, those who have, know what that feels like, those who don’t have a very different set of feelings about that too. It is a practical story to have a house with foundations, today we hear of people who have shoddy building contractors and their roof collapses or their extension falls down. But we know that having foundations is very important, and I would also consider that we are asked to be rooted in this story.

The word rooted seems more of a solid thing, not just on the ground but in it. Things last longer, they are not as vulnerable to external forces like the weather or a bulldozer. But they also grow. And this what really excites me about this story because in the community development work I do, that is all about growth. Show let’s build our imaginary sandcastle and think about growth.

So what would we consider to be our rootedness? Well, a great place to start is the bible, because I have to remind people that I’m not a community worker in isolation, I am church related and that as Christians is what we are about. This rooted-ness is in the scripture, keeps us following and gives us a checking system, what did Jesus say? What am I supposed to be doing, what are we supposed to be doing as a church?

In the next layer, what would we have after reading our scripture? Probably worship and teaching because we are better together. The unity and grounding that comes from sharing God’s word corporately keeps us going, it can provide a space to focus on God and to remind us that we can come, be together seek solace and share joy. And prayer is that too, a chat with God about whatever we want, together or alone, in worship or frankly at another time, but always reaching for our roots, our foundation. As Jesus taught us, so we pray.

Then particular to working in the way I do is asking people. Asking each other, what has this foundation given us, what does Jesus ask of us, what is God asking us to do in His kingdom now? But also asking others – what helps you, how would you like to be involved, what can we best do to serve. Because it is in that rootedness, that growth that people flourish, not just in the building but outside, in the streets, houses further afield. If we have good roots, growth will be abundant. And if we have this great foundation, the scripture of evident love of God, why would we keep this to ourselves?

So our sandcastle is growing and were getting towards 5 or 6 layer. We might pray again, and then listen to what we’ve been told – usually in my work have steering groups or I sit on other boards and groups in my community to listen. Part of my work has been in community organising and listening is at the roots of their practice and engagement with local people.

We are now nearly at the top of our sandcastle and I don’t know about you, but I love flag, or a bucket or something fancy and significant, a sense of achievement, and for us that is doing with. If we are rooted, we bear fruit – those fruit are not separate entities to our faith, our church and our lives, they are with us. They grow because of all the other steps, the scripture, the prayer, the teaching and worship, the discernment, the asking, listening and doing with. And what is a better outworking of the Gospel than being and doing with those we yet don’t know, or maybe are not like us because if Jesus wanted us to stay where we are he would not have challenged the pharisees, prayed, then chosen his disciples and then immediately spoken to the people in the plain. He would have stayed where he was and we might not be here now. This all takes, work, intention and agency, it may feel uncomfortable but it is temporary discomfort and can be thrilling just like the rollercoaster. But with this spectacular foundation we can make it work

So now to our sandcastle in the picture. This is the tallest sandcastle that has ever been built. It was completed in July 2021 in Denmark and is over 21 meters tall. It took 6,400 tonnes of sand and stood for 6 months. But the most interesting part is that it was part clay to make the sand last longer and be less vulnerable to elements. And it stood on a base of 30m to make sure it would stay upright. Jesus gives us our foundation, let’s not ignore it but use it wisely, actively and with faith as he would wish.

Amen.