A house upon a rock
Words to build by.
Oct 8/21 2009 20th Wednesday after Pentecost
We just so happen to building a church just now (have you heard? J ) Today’s Gospel reading applies in a very direct way to our building project. This project is ongoing, and will continue after the last brick is in place, and the last icon is painted, because the building that our Lord is referring to is the “building” of the soul – the one and only purpose of human life – the perfection of the soul.
Building a temple is similar to building the soul in one’s personal life. Without effort and proper priorities, all will be for naught. Without belief in Christ, which purely an simply means following Christ by taking His yoke upon us in all things, all will be for naught.
In the secular world, a man builds after taking careful account of finances, and planning, including design, choice of location and materials. We have done all that, but the most important things, which this reading describes, have nothing to do with these things.
The rock that our Lord mentions is Himself. The scripture refers to Christ, that is, belief in Him, and following Him, as “rock”:
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat 16:16-18)
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Rom 9:33)
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; (2) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; (3) And did all eat the same spiritual meat; (4) And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1Co 10:1-4)
Our church edifice happens to look a bit like rock, and will be covered in rock, but these are external things.
As a parish, we build upon a rock when we corporately and individually dedicate our lives the Christ. I cannot do anything about how an individual builds, but as a pastor I can only help to provide the mortar and the bricks.
Among our most important materials is prayer. I serve a weekly Thursday liturgy, and have been doing so for almost two years. This is one of our most important ministries. Many times, I have served with only the reader and myself, with God among us, and with the Saints and angels . In the world, one would say that this act of worship has little impact, since hardly anybody comes. If we were a Home Depot, we would have long ago closed our doors on this day and hour, because so few come, but we are a church, and we must pray, faithfully.
Our weekday liturgy has been the most important reason why our building project has been succeeding.
I will continue serving, no matter how many lean days there are, because in this service, we pray for everyone in the parish by name in the Great Ectenia. There is no way for our feeble minds to understand the grace that this brings to our community, but is does come!
I have seen very consoling signs that this liturgy is important personally to our flock, because of the steady attendance in our two monthly “children’s liturgies”. There is no value that can be attached to the grace that our children (and us) receive by worshipping together, and teaching them to sing.
My custom of sitting down and giving a simple homily after the Gospel, with the children gathered around, and excitedly (and often quite correctly, but sometimes with an … interesting perspective!) interjecting their answers and feelings is the best part of my week. This may not be considered to be pristine liturgics, but it is good theology.
How can any parishioner, whatever his station in life, help to build his parish upon a rock? Personally we must struggle, with fasting and prayer and a continual reassessment and adjustment of our thoughts and priorities. Corporately, we must consider ourselves to be a part of the body, therefore critical to its functioning. Participation in prayer, giving alms, praying for each other, baking prosphora, cleaning the church, church classes and activities, and anything and everything else that affects our parish life together is the way we contribute to building our parish upon the rock.
46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. 1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. Luke 6:46-7:1
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mat 18:20). These are very good words to remember when in a sparsely attended service.