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07.01.18 God’s Hope and Ours Luke 6.46-49 Sermon Summary

by on July 2, 2018

We continue our summer series entitled “Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church)” by looking at “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”. This hymn is based on one of Jesus’ parables.

Jesus used parables to teach through stories that paint a picture. They are popular and enduring. Why? Because as is the case with all art, parables offer many points of entry. Everyone appreciates something personal but different about the parables. We relate to different characters, or identify with different actions in the parables.  This leads to diverse but personal interpretations.

There are two versions of this parable in the Bible: One in Matthew and one in Luke. Mathew’s version is the more popular. Many people don’t even know Luke’s version exists. Many people know this parable as “The Wise and Foolish Builders”, since that’s the language in Matthew.

But Luke’s version suggests other interpretations. For starters, Jesus more pointedly offers a critique of the church. He starts with, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I tell you?” Whereas Matthew’s Jesus is telling his disciples to follow his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s Jesus is admonishing them—and us—for not doing so.

Second, only Luke tells us that the builder “dug deeply” to find the rock foundation for his house.

And third, whereas in Matthew the rains fall, the floods rise, and the winds blow against the house, in Luke, it’s a flood leading to a bursting river. We know this as a flash flood. The storm is sudden in Luke, while more sustained in Matthew.

So each parable presents two different emphases. In Matthew, you can endure stormy weather a long time if you hear and practice Jesus’ words. In Luke, you can survive a sudden storm. In both Gospels, however, the man builds his “house” upon the rock, whether the house refers to one’s life or the church.

This parable is the basis of “My Hope,” composed by a Baptist minister who in a moment of inspiration desired to write a hymn about the about “gracious experience of a Christian.” “My Hope” reflects Baptist theology, where the primary reason for Jesus is to save us from hell in the afterlife.

For the author, this attitude was confirmed by his experience with a dying parishioner. She was the first to hear the hymn, and it brought her great joy, peace, and hope. Consider especially last verse: “When Christ shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found.” This is a “last judgment” scene, where the singer is “dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” This is the throne of an offended king who is about to render judgment. But in “My Hope,” Jesus’ “blood” cleanses us of the offending sin and saves us from judgment.

“My Hope” is about trust and hope during the judgment of our lives. But the parable on which it is based has a much broader application. The parable is about this life, before death, not an afterlife. And “My Hope” reflects this perspective also, for example, in verse three: “When darkness seems to hide his face, I rest on Christ’s unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”

Another difference: “My Hope” says the rock is Christ—“On Christ the solid rock I stand”—but the parable suggests more. In the parable, “rock” refers to the words of Jesus, his teaching in words but also by example and in the pictures of parables. For Luke’s Jesus, getting to this rock requires “digging deeply.” It takes TIME.

John teaches this same truth in a parable of sorts—the story of Jesus walking on the storm. After full schedule of ministry including celebrating a religious holiday, regular worship, teaching, and feeding 5000 people, the disciples set across the lake in a boat. A storm rises and they become terrified. Jesus is nowhere to be found. Where is he?

According to John, Jesus had “withdrawn to mountain by himself.” Jesus was praying, probably giving thanks, remembering his foundation. Then Jesus comes walking on the water, speaks these words: “Do not be afraid”; and suddenly the boat arrives on the other side. It is delivered through the storm.

What is the difference between the disciples and Jesus? Why were they terrified in the storm while Jesus was tranquil, even able to rise above it and walk upon it? The disciples were tired. Jesus was rested. They were terrified. He was unafraid.

The next time a storm arose in their lives, I’m sure the disciples remembered this. And John wants us to remember it also. Like Jesus, we’re to find a special, quiet place where we can meet God, remember, and give thanks.

“Digging deep to the foundation” takes time—time for rest, reflection, and reconnecting with God. So when the storm comes, the judgment on our lives, whether final or before, whether “rain, floods, and wind” or “bursting river,” “in the whelming flood; when all around our soul gives way, Jesus then is all our hope and stay.”

May you take hold of this hope for your own life, and hold out this hope to the world.

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