Sunday sermon 1 July 10 30am – what are you building?

Sunday 10.30 am family service.

Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Footnotes:     Deuteronomy 6:4 Or The Lord our God is one Lord; or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; or The Lord is our God, the Lord alone

Ephesians 6:1-4

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Matthew 7:24-37

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

“He who builds according to every man’s advice will have a crooked house.”  — Danish Proverb

SERMON              So what are you building?

This young teen was helping his uncle build a house. And he was sent to the local timber yard to buy some timber. He gave the measurements of the wood in height and width, but not in length. “How long do you want it?” the man asked. Not being very bright the student replied – “well quite a long time, really. We’re building a house.”

So what are you building?

We recently celebrated with a family as they moved into a new house, and I had one of those many blank moments – I could not remember the bible verse I wanted to refer to as we prayed through the house. Of course it came to me later as these things do: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (Ps 127:1)

I’ve never owned a house. I haven’t built one either. So I’m not an expert on the physical building matters. More than 60 per cent of New Zealanders do live in their own houses (2006 census).

For the Christian, what we build into the lives of our children – our families – is vastly more important than what we add onto the buildings. Or how big or small they are.

Today’s dedication of a young baby of one year is a good moment to reflect on what we are passing on to our children when it comes to faith.

The roots of this are early in the Old Testament – my favourite passage on families.

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The symbols on the door frame of a Jewish house are part of a bigger picture – what they stood for, who they were, and their faith conversations sitting at home, walking along the road (today that would include driving in the car! Or your jet if you have one!), and when you go to bed and get up.

It was about the journey of life. In fact the race of life is a good picture (with the Olympics soon upon us). Like a relay race – the baton was to be passed on from one generation to another by the parents.

  • It’s more than just dedications as ceremonies (or baptisms of little children, or what used to be termed Christenings).
  • And it’s a lot more than just our Kidzchurch programmes, as great as they are. Sunday school was never intended to replace the role of parents in passing on the baton of faith to children! He original Sunday schools were for the sake of illiterate children who needed to read and write but were trapped in child labour through the week!

They became a token faith-teaching exercise and in many places a baby-sitting facility so that adults could do their adult “church” stuff!

The readings today are focussed on these matters.

So there’s the first reading about parents’ responsibility to pass on faith. And while the dads often give that job to the mums, Paul in the second reading (Ephesians) sorts the kids and the dads out with these words:

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Dads are not meant to be passive partners in this God business.

I confess that I have often exasperated my children by majoring on minors and focussing on battles that were not worth fighting! And being a preacher I have probably said too little to my kids – mainly because I was always afraid of preaching at home too much.

My favourite reading of today’s set is the one from Matthew’s Gospel. I grew up next to the sea, and apart from 12 years away from the coast, have always been near the beach.

The idea of building houses on sand seems patently stupid of course. But we had high rise buildings built close to the sea. And the pile driving was extensive – very deep foundations were dug.

I get very nervous when there are landslips – seeing peoples’ houses collapse is becoming more common. Seeing their inner houses – spiritually, emotionally and psychologically – collapsing – is also terrible. Seeing people build on completely the wrong foundations – that is a disaster.

The words of Jesus are the key. Jesus suggests that we put his words into practice – and the houses of our lives will be strong.

Jesus only referred to the church twice in his teachings. The rest of the time was about The Kingdom of God – a system of different values and priorities which should make up the foundation of our lives.

We have to go beyond Jesus’ words to the whole of the Scriptures to get a full picture of God’s purpose for us as parents teaching our children.

A great starting point in Jesus’s teaching is the foundational idea that he introduces when he says to his followers, ‘When you pray, say ‘our Father””.

THE KING IN THE KINGDOM IS A FATHER

If fathers are not to exasperate their children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, what should be done then?

Here are some things that might help us in this process.

1.       The Dedication of children to God – mainly in prayer!

The dedication of our children to the Lord – whether in this kind of dedication moment officially, or from the moment they are conceived or take their first breath – is the acknowledgement that like our time and our money (which we considered last week) we are caretakers and life is gift! In the same Psalm about the Lord building the house otherwise it’s all built in vain, verse three reminds us:

Psalm 127:3  Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.

While we may as dads make a contribution that leads to conception, they are all part of the gift and blessing of God.

I know that the parents who brought their son to be dedicated to the Lord a long time before this formal event! The commitment of our children requires time given to prayer throughout their lives. It never ends as this story shows us:

STORY: A lady who turned 100 was asked what the best year of her life was. “That’s easy”, she replied, “the year I turned 90!” The interviewer asked why, to which she replied, “in that year all my children were safely in a retirement home!”

Prayer for their future, their education ( a huge challenge of choices, and recently I visited a local Christian school –a discussion we need to have with all our parents), they career and partner choices, and mainly that they will have a heart for the things of God and His kingdom.

Much of our parenting work then is done behind the scenes – is largely unseen by our children!

2.       As parents WE need to love one another!

The most powerfully modelling of the things of the Kingdom is done by the parents in their relationship with God and each other! And you need both.

People need to see the love of God in action – not just in commitment to God’s values and worship, but in caring for each other at home.

“Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” is fundamental to our family lives – with love as the most powerful tool to shape their lives.

The new commandment that Jesus gives us – love one another as I have loved you – applies at home more than anywhere else – it is in the home that all of this is ultimately experienced!

You can never love your little children enough. Through love and trust, they learn to love and trust. And they see that love firstly in your relationship as their parents.

3.       Introduce them to their Heavenly Father.

What amazing examples there are of God the Father’s love and care for us.

  • He is a God of compassion and comfort – listen to Paul:

2Co 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 2Co 1:4  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 

  • He is a Father of forgiveness – as seen in the story of the Prodigal son who did not keep his son a prisoner but let him go out and mess up things- but obviously waited for his return: Luk 15:20  So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The Father throws a party for the son who has come and says this:  Luk 15:24  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

  • He is a Good Father who gives good gifts:

Mat 7:9  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Mat 7:10  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

Mat 7:11  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

A final word from Paul again.

Paul was not a parent, but he spoke of his spiritual sons (like Timothy). He reminds us of the role of fathers in this passage:

1Th 2:10  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 1Th 2:11  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,1Th 2:12  encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Paul seems to be saying that they were being fathers who encourage, comfort and then URGE those he pastored to

“live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

THE FINAL MEASURE

The final measure of the success of our lives and those of our children is not their fame and fortune, but whether their lives are lived to a standard that is worthy of God.

His calling is to enter into the life of his Kingdom and His glory!

What a challenge!

The foundations have to be right, or what we invest all our energy and time into will collapse!

So what are you building? Let’s build on biblical foundations. Remember this:

“He who builds according to every man’s advice will have a crooked house.”  — Danish Proverb

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on July 1, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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