Build on a strong foundation – prepared by the Christian women of Vanuatu
On the first Friday of March each year around the world, Christian people come together to pray using resources prepared by women from a particular country. This year in the UK we are not able to gather in the normal way, and here in Bognor Regis, we will be gathering later in the year at The Salvation Army. However, the women of Vanuatu have put together a wonderful resource based on the parable of the wise and foolish builders, entitled Build on a Strong Foundation.
As we pause for a few minutes today, our hearts, minds and prayers are transported to the other side of the world to a collection of 80 islands east of Australia known as Vanuatu. With black and white sandy beaches, beautiful coral reefs, tropical coloured fish, forests full of lovely birds, abundant flora and fauna and spectacular cascades, these are wonderful islands.
Shall we pray:
Holy God, Creator of the heavens and earth and all that is in them:
We join with the Christian women of Vanuatu in praise of you
– for fertile land and fresh air
– for the sweet melody of the birds, for land animals and the mysterious creatures of the deep
– and for the sounds of children playing
We thank you for the example of Christian women of Vanuatu
– for their trust in you
– for their fortitude as they struggle to provide food for their families and education for their children – things that we in this country so often take for granted.
We ask for your forgiveness for our thoughtlessness, our carelessness and our lack of foresight which has led to the pollution of the environment and the current climate emergency, which is causing irrevocable damage to Vanuatu and to other low-lying Pacific Islands.
We pray that you will help us
– to listen more carefully to you and to your Word
– to build our homes and communities on its strong foundations
– to work together towards a world where resources are used more sustainably; where justice and peace reign; and where all your creatures can live in safety and harmony.
We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
The reading is taken from Matthew 7: 24-27
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.’
The verses of the reading conclude the Sermon on the Mount. It is not an empty instruction; behind it is the full understanding of Jesus’ ministry and the kingdom of Heaven.
Do you remember a children’s song you may have sung: ‘The wise man built his house upon the rock…’?
But why did Jesus choose to talk about two builders, each with a very different perspective on how to build the perfect home?
In this story, the first man spends days, perhaps even weeks, digging down into the impermeable rock, sweating in the blazing Middle Eastern sun. Laying firm foundations deep into the ground, all the while thinking of his end goal, his prize of a beautiful home. Meanwhile, down in the valley, a second man is also dreaming of his beautiful home. This one, however, does not see the need to dig deep and lay foundations. He thinks he can cut a lot of that hard work out, and just builds his perfect home on the sand. He even makes fun of the first builder, who is still toiling away whilst this second one relaxes with a cooling drink in front of his finished house.
However, as we all know, the storms came, as they do, and we can see clearly which builder successful and which home was still standing strong.
The advantages and disadvantages of the rock and sand are plain to see, but Jesus wasn’t giving a lesson on how to build the perfect, storm-withstanding house. As with many parables, He asks the listener to think deeper and see past the illustration in the story. What if we took the time to build our lives on a firm foundation, digging deep into the rock of God’s word? What if we not only heard or read God’s word but actually put it into practice in our lives? What if we taught our children and grandchildren to do the same? Not to cut the corners and take the easy route, but to really dig into the richness of God’s word and apply it to their lives?
When the storms come, when life tests us to our limits, when the unexpected pulls the rug from under us, when all around us seems to come crashing in on us, we will stand firm in the word of God. We will know that we are held in the everlasting arms of God. Our strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will carry us through.
So today, we thank the women of Vanuatu for challenging us to consider the meanings of this parable for us today. And I pray that you will continue to build your life on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
For those who want to experience a full World Day of Prayer service with people from around the world, then head over to YouTube and look for 2021 WDP WORSHIP SERVICE. We will also post a link on our own Salvation Army Bognor Regis Website and Facebook pages.
God bless you, and we hope to see you later this year when we can gather and pray with the women of Vanuatu in person.
Major Sarah Butler, Salvation Army, Bognor Regis