(…continued) Holding on to Muggs got me through a year or two of childhood. Sports and good looks might get you a few good years in high school, maybe college, and for a very few, maybe even a bit more. After that, you better have something else to depend on. And even money, which we all need, will get you only so far—all through your life, if the money lasts, but then not one bit farther. All of these other things will, in the end, let you down.
Speaking of security, I just turned 64 years old, so guess what I have been looking at a little closer these days?—Social Security, and the security of my pension fund. And just like holding on to Muggs used to make me feel a little more secure, I am now doing the math and figuring out how secure I will be able to feel when I come to the end of my working years. It makes me feel good and somewhat secure that I can put a certain amount of trust in those resources.
Now social security and IRAs and savings accounts will be able to help with the bills a lot more than Muggs ever did; but they are all alike in that they are short term securities, and can be trusted in only for the time being.
Thirty years ago there was a woman in my congregation who had a brother that was a Lutheran minister. He was a few years older than me. Don and his wife would show up at our church every once in a while when he was visiting his sister, and we would always have a good chat. Then I moved, but a few years later Don got a call to a church the same area where I was then serving. We renewed our friendship as we would meet each other at conference meetings. Then I moved again and we lost touch, as often happens with friends in the ministry. I did not hear from Don and he did not hear from me for about 20 years. Then one day I saw his name in the newspaper. He and his wife were killed in a car accident not far from the congregation I was then serving. Don had just retired. The financial security he had built up over a lifetime of work helped him only a few months.
But that is not all Don and his wife were trusting in. They also believed in and trusted in and found their best security in Jesus, who had promised them He was going on ahead to prepare a place for them; a place that would be secure and safe, even after fatal car accidents. And so they are still okay.
That is what you call “building your house on a rock,” as Jesus once described it in a parable in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus told about two men– one who built his house on sand and one who built his house on a rock. And then the rains came, and the streams rose, and the wind blew; and one house stood firm and the other house came crashing down.
We can put our trust in many different things in life, but eventually the storms will come. I suppose one of the first storms came for me when some of the older kids in the neighborhood started asking me, “How come you are always dragging around that ugly monkey, you big baby?” So, I decided if I wanted to have any friends I would have to venture out on my own without Muggs. Then, I always liked sports, but I wasn’t much of an athlete, so I knew that wouldn’t get me very far. But I could get good grades, and so I trusted in my intelligence to get myself some scholarship money for college. How else was I going to afford to further my education with college costing $1,850 dollars a year, plus books? I did get the scholarships, and I did all right in college and seminary. But then, working as a pastor taught me I had a lot more to learn yet, and a lot of what I needed to know wasn’t in the books. That is another kind of storm that taught me to trust in someone bigger than myself. Raising kids, serious illnesses, death of loved ones, difficult and painful relationships, etc., — those are the kinds of things that have made me keep looking to that more solid foundation for my life.
Such storms challenge us all to look at what we are trusting in and where it is that we seek our security. I heard of a man who was in his 50’s and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Chemotherapy was going to get him a little more time, but would not cure the disease. He would perhaps get another year or two. A friend asked him how he was doing with all that. The dying man said, “Cancer changes your perspective on a lot of things. I have not been paying as much attention to the stock market and my IRAs these days, and I have been paying a lot more attention to Jesus.”
Romans 14:8 says, “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” That’s far better than anything we can manage on our own. As is says in Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.”
Matthew 7:24-27 — (Jesus said), “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. 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. 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer