24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Confirmation Verse – Romans 5:1 – Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I read a story about a fellow who one day went to visit an old musician. He knocked on the musician’s door and said, “What’s the good word today?” The old musician didn’t say a word. He turned around and went back across the room to where a tuning fork was hanging. He took a hammer and struck the tuning fork so that the note resounded through the room. The musician said, “That, my friend is an ‘A’. It was ‘A’ yesterday. It was ‘A’ five thousand years ago, and it will be ‘A’ 5000 years from now.” Then he added, “The tenor across the hall sings off key. The soprano upstairs is flat on her high notes. And the piano in the next room is out of tune. He struck the tuning fork again and said, “That is ‘A” and that my friend is the good word for today.”
In the few conversations I had with Ruth, it seems as though her good word for most days was “blessed.” She felt blessed by her children, she felt blessed by her grandchildren, she felt blessed by her church, and if you were to get at the heart of her feeling and being blessed, you would quickly have gotten to the truths of God’s Word. Truths that were, are, and always will be the same. Specifically the truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. The truth that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life Ruth could never begin to live, He suffered all that she deserved to suffer, and He died the death on a Friday that she needed him to die. For her, He rose up on the third day, and for her He ascended into heaven on the 40th day, and for her He sent His Spirit in generous fashion on the 50th day, for her He is ruling all of heaven and earth, and just a few days ago, early on the second day of Easter, He sent His angels to carry her soul, to carry her spirit into the very presence of Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is the good word for today, and you shouldn’t be surprised that it took this preacher over 150 words to tell you what is the one good word!
Our sermon text for today is the basis for the hymn that we just sang, “My Hope is Built On Nothing Less”, a song which includes the refrain, “on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Our sermon theme today is “The Solid Rock”, and the first of two parts is this, A house built on shifting sands may stand through a variety of storms, but eventually that house will fall, and it will fall hard.
In Jesus’ day, a sensible man would have built his house not so much on a boulder, but on a cliff, on a ridge, or on a mountain, in a place that would be able to weather the worst of storms. Not so sensible people would build their homes on sandy soils which would prove eventually to be a disaster. In our text for today, in Matthew 7, Jesus had just revealed Himself as the Judge who would be turning away impenitent sinners on the last day. He said that many would be saying in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? Cast out demons in your name? In thy name done wonderful works?” At which point Jesus would say “I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Speaking of lawlessness, just a couple of days ago, three young men from Adult and Teen Challenge spoke to our youth group. They told stories of how drug and alcohol abuse had turned their lives into disasters. The first young fellow, Corey, had grown up in the inner city, he enjoyed none of the advantages many of us have enjoyed, he had been given no solid foundation in life, his life was a train wreck right up until Jesus Christ got ahold of him and turned him around. The second fellow, Alex, had been baptized into the name of the Triune God, he was raised with strong Christian values, but as life went on, his hopes were built on human achievement, he was all about succeeding for himself and making a name for himself, and after years of chasing all these other things in life, he came up empty. The third fellow admitted that he led a double life based first on playing football and second on using drugs, and at a young age, his house fell, and it fell hard.
To try and live life apart from Christ or even to keep him at a distance is like building a house without a firm foundation. To use the language of Ruth’s family, it’s like a bed without a quilt. A bed without a quilt, some would say, is like a sky without stars. Lesson #1 today, is to know the foolishness of hearing God’s Word, but not holding on tight to that Word. The foolishness of being baptized into the Christian family and then straying from that baptism. The foolishness of being handed the kingdom of God on a silver platter, and then not seeking first that kingdom. It’s been my experience in ministry that children and grandchildren and cousins and nephews and nieces tend to listen to God’s Word at funerals in a way they don’t normally listen. Which is why, I urge you this very day ask yourself the same three questions the pastors have asked Ruth over the years and even in her dying days, 1) Are you sorry for your sins? 2)Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior? 3) Will you amend your sinful life?
What a joy it has been for her pastors over the years to say to her again and again that God was her refuge and strength, that He was a very present help in trouble, that in the waters of Holy Baptism, her name was written in the book of life….that as often as she listened to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit was working faith in her heart……….that as often as she cried out for the mercy of God, the mercy of God was hers…………that as often as she ate and drank at the Holy Supper, her sins were forgiven, heaven was hers, the peace that surpasses all human understanding and circumstances would be ruling in her heart and soul and mind.
Lesson #1 was this, A house built on shifting sands may stand through a variety of storms, but eventually that house will fall, and it will fall hard. Lesson #2 is this, The house built on the solid rock will stand through every storm, even the final one. One truth we learned about Ruth in the past two months is that she appreciated not only the congregations that have been home for her over the years, but also Trinity Lutheran School. Our principal tells me that she had recently written a check out to TLS for school supplies, her obituary indicates what many of the families did years ago, they made a particular effort to send their kids to TLS in7th and 8th grade years, even if that meant kids boarding at grandparents or other relatives. No doubt, Ruth’s parents had this one great desire – that she be instructed in the six chief parts of the Catechism by their pastor, that she would build her life on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that her house would be founded on the solid rock and therefore never fall.
No doubt Hattie and Fritz Guse would be comforted in knowing that Ruth’s faith in her crucified and risen and coming back again some day Savior grew over the years and remained strong in her final days. A pastor older than I told me one time that his favorite question in the catechism was question #152. I’m talking the 1943 edition now, the English version where there are 331 questions, and the habit of pastors years ago was that kids would memorize all 331 questions, not to mention 703 Bible verses.
Question 152 asks, “Why is the resurrection of Christ of such importance and comfort to us?” As you take in the fragrance of all of these Easter lilies and flowers, as you notice one more time that the resurrection candle, the baptism candle, the Easter candle is burning brightly today, as you think one more time about what is most important in life and what is not so important, let these four answers to that question soak into your hearts and souls.
Christ’s resurrection definitely proves first of all that Christ is the Son of God. He is who he said he was. He is the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. It’s very comforting to know that Ruth Guse Schoenfeld held on in a strong way to her Savior’s hand, it’s even more comforting to know that He’s been holding her in his arms all this time. (Story of a father and son walking on a slippery sidewalk).
Christ’s resurrection definitely proves secondly that His doctrine is the truth. It’s pretty comforting to think back on all of those years Ruth spent teaching Sunday School, all of those quilts she tied, all of those duties as wife and mother and grandma she fulfilled in good fashion, and it’s even more comforting to think about her getting blessed every time she heard and kept the Word of God. The church she attended for so many years, Trinity Lutheran in Wilton, is famous in this corner of the Kingdom for preaching and teaching the Word of God in a faithful way. It’s very comforting to know that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so. It’s even more comforting to know that the Bible is proven to be true by the resurrection of Christ.
Christ’s resurrection definitely proves, in the third place, that God the Father has accepted the sacrifice of His Son for the reconciliation of the world. It’s very comforting to know that Ruth has finished the list of good works ordained by God for her to do, that she has finished her course believing in her Savior, it’s even more comforting to know that when Jesus said on the cross, it is finished, that he meant what he said and said what he meant. All that needed to be suffered was suffered, salvation was accomplished, spiritual debt was cancelled, sins forgiven.
Christ’s resurrection definitely proves, finally, that all believers shall rise unto eternal life. It’s very comforting to know that at the moment of death, Ruth’s soul and spirit went into the very presence of Jesus Christ. It’s even more comforting to look forward to the resurrection of her body. We praise God today that every house built on the solid rock will in fact stand through every storm, even the final one. We sing to the Lord in joyful fashion today, knowing that Ruth and her husband heeded the warnings not to build their house on shifting sand, knowing that when the final rains fell and the floods came and the winds beat against their house, it did not fall, we sing alleluias to a Risen Christ knowing in a definitive way that she is resting from her labors and that her works will be following her and multiplying into this world for generations to come. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther