Kingdom Parables: The Parable of the Two Builders

For the next few weeks in worship at Calvary, we’re considering some of Jesus’ Kingdom Parables…passages in the New Testament where he compares life in the kingdom of God to everyday events or experiences.  Each week a Calvary member will share some thoughts about a picture he or she took for our Modern Kingdom Parables photo gallery, and challenge the congregation to think in new ways about the biblical parable we’re studying.

Philip Renfrow, Calvary member and local architect shared this picture and these thoughts in worship on Sunday:

Today’s parable is the story of two builders and it seems I am supposed to know something about building.  Well this story keeps me awake at night!  As a licensed architect my duty is to protect the health, safety and welfare of you – the public.  So this story is a little creepy.

Jesus told this story, like so many others, about everyday life experiences.  We have all heard it before … one man builds his house on a rock while another builds his house on sand.  The river floods, the winds blow and … well you know the rest.  It was not so creepy to me hearing it in Sunday School.  After all I loved building those Popsicle stick houses and best of all destroying them.  Can you imagine it now Rick Goodman acting this out with the children. Rick has them blowing as hard as they can until they are breathless then lets them pour water out all over the rocks and the sand where their Popsicle stick houses sit.  I can see it now – can you?  Like all of Jesus’ parables, the story of two builders is far more than it seems.

Of course it isn’t really about construction technology is it?  If told today, it would not even seem believable.  After all, architects and engineers have long ago mastered how to build upon almost anything no matter the geological condition underneath.

Years ago, before I began my own architectural practice, the firm I worked for was commissioned to study construction techniques in coastal high hazard areas all over the United States.  Now the principal in the office went to Hawaii, then to Alaska to study coastal construction, while I was assigned to the East coast with such exotic destinations as New Jersey and Delaware.  I learned a lot from this assignment.  I learned I needed to be the principal and boss so I could go to Hawaii.  That was my last project in that office.  Another thing I learned was that people often do not really listen.  Just like today’s parable told a story as a way of teaching followers how to live, not everyone was listening.  I remember the fishermen and sailors in Glouchester, Mass who reported that storm after storm their beachfront homes virtually destroyed, they just go out, get more cedar trees, sink them back under their houses to replace what just washed away.  And this goes on and on from generation to generation.  Well that technique did not make it into our recommendations.

The image I chose to represent a more contemporary version of this story, illustrated on the front of your program, may not be the one you would think.  Recently Nancy and I were traveling in Europe and saw many spectacular cathedrals and other architectural masterpieces.  Many dating back before the Middle Ages.  One seemingly perfect example of building on a rock was Mont St. Michel.  A monastery and pilgrimage church begun around the 8th C and built solidly on a rock surrounded by water at high tide.  That would be the first image that would come to mind.  But, while traveling through Belgium, we stopped in Liege specifically to see the “banhoff” or train station as we know it.  Does this image remind you of a train station?  Hardly.  We think more of the traditional building with its heavy stone and arched openings welcoming travelers into a large and chaotic space of grand proportions that make us feel so small and sometimes lost.  At least that is the image I would have first thought.  But this train station exhibits all those same qualities yet it is transparent, full of natural light and seems to barely touch the ground.  It hovers over the city’s edge protecting it and serves all the same functions yet is decidedly different than what we might have imagined.

To me, reading again after all those Popsicle house failures, this parable is far more than our traditional understanding of hearing what Jesus taught us about living a life of discipleship.  It is more than being prepared for those storms that come along unexpectedly.  Like this Belgian banhoff, it is being unconventional.  Pastor Amy teaches us about how Jesus was radical.  Challenging any who would listen to live differently.  To receive the freedom to be unconventional.

And if we follow his example today, then we too must live the gospel in radical and unconventional ways.  A rock has been reserved for all of us to build on – how will you use yours?

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About Amy

Senior Pastor, The Riverside Church, New York
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