Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 | Psalm 119:33-40 | 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 | Matthew 5:38-48

Jeremy Richards

For better or worse, my dad and I love to give each other a hard time. My dad especially loves to tease people. So what I’m about to reveal to you is totally in keeping with the relationship we’ve always had. I’m not a horrible person.

There are a few stories – only 2 or 3 – where my dad, well, let’s just say missed the mark. And it’s become expected, you might even say it’s become a tradition, for me to bring these stories up at some point whenever he visits. There’s always something that will prompt a story. Maybe he’ll give me a hard time about something and I’ll respond, “Well, remember that time…” or if we’re out and we see something that prompts one of these stories I might bring it up.

Well, one of the stories is that, when I was very young, I desperately wanted a fort. I really wanted a tree fort, but all we had were pine trees and those are difficult to build tree forts in, so my dad said he would make me a little fort in our backyard, with my help of course. We had 4 cinderblocks left over from when our house was being built and a bunch of old railroad ties that had been on the property before we built our house. My dad’s idea was that he would use the four cinderblocks as the foundation, then put four railroad ties across them to make the base of the fort. As a kid, maybe 8 or 9, I didn’t understand the importance of getting the cinderblocks level, but my dad assured me that we had to get them just right. We had to dig holes for them. We had to pack the dirt down where they would sit so they wouldn’t shift. We had to make sure they were level.

This was hard work, really hard work. It was so hard that we never finished the foundation. We got 3 of the 4 set and leveled. They’re still out in our yard, with no fort built on top of them.

Laying a foundation is hard, you have to get it just right. Years later I worked for a construction company and I remember laying a foundation. It was nerve racking. The cement came out so fast, and you had to push it down the channel that had been made out of sheets of plywood. You had to make sure the cement was packed in well enough, but not so packed in that it bowed the wood.

Everything in a building depends on the foundation. I went online and looked up why foundations are important. One site said this:

Without the right foundation, a house cannot last. New homeowners often focus on the surface of things when building a home and may not be aware of the importance of the home's foundation. The structural integrity of a home requires a foundation built to last. The foundation carries the weight of the entire house on its shoulders, offers a level base for wall construction and separates the wood framing of the house from termites on the ground. Without a strong foundation, the walls of the home will be insecure. The foundation must be built to carry the weight and load of all the other building elements used in the home.

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is our foundation.

Good foundations hold houses stable during earthquakes. They remain after fires consume houses, and tornadoes tear the roofs off homes. Foundations keep buildings steady over the years of normal wear and tear that are bound to take place. According to the quote I just read, foundations even keep harmful insects from worming their way into the house and causing decay from the inside out.

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is our foundation.

Many of us know what it is to have “natural disasters” wreak havoc on our lives. Life if full of storms, both small and large.

Some creep in slowly.

Doubts and worries, like the constant damp we experience in Portland, slowly rotting away the infrastructure of our lives.

Hidden sins that spread like black mold through the walls.

Or there are great, grandiose storms.

Trauma that strikes like a hurricane, completely wrecking us, changing the landscape of the world around us, and leveling the life we have built.

A sudden death in the family that falls on us like freezing rain, trapping us under a layer of ice that keeps us holed up inside, away from the warmth and comfort of others.

These kinds of disasters, and others, inevitably occur. Sometimes there are steps we can take to prevent them, or head them off before they grow too large. Others are unforeseeable and impossible to prepare for. Sometimes they literally level us.

But in all of these scenarios a good foundation will remain.

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is our foundation.

A few years ago Brie and I went to Yosemite, and we did a hike that had a number of sites where old cabins had once stood. Usually all that was left was a pile of stones where the fireplace had been and, you guessed it, the foundation.

Foundations stay the same over time. They stay the same whether you’re rebuilding or renovating. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is our foundation.

The thing to remember is that, although the foundation remains strong, it isn’t removed from the house. It’s a part of the house. It feels the effects of each of these disasters. It may not show it in the same way as the house that sits above the ground, but the foundation feels the pull of the strong winds, and the heat of the fire. It may even bear the scorch marks of a hot fire, as Jesus bears the marks of the cross. Just because Christ remains strong and stable in the midst of the storms of life, does not mean he doesn’t feel them. It doesn’t mean he isn’t with us in them. Jesus’ suffering on the cross shows his solidarity with us in our times of suffering. In Matthew 28:20 he says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

If Christ is our foundation, then Christ is with us always, holding us when we can’t hold on to anything else, when our roof is getting ripped off or our walls are crumbling. Christ promises to be with us, even if we can’t see him below us, bearing us up.

All this sounds nice, but how does it actually work out in life? It’s good to say Christ is our foundation, but if we can’t see him, and if the storms still come and do real damage, then what good is he doing? Who cares if the foundation is strong if the house gets totally decimated?

I would like to turn to v. 16 of our reading from 1 Corinthians, when Paul says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Now let me read it the proper way, the southern way, “Do y’all not know that y’all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in y’all?”

The temple Paul is referring to is not each of us as individuals, but the whole Church, the community of believers. So if I could amend my earlier metaphors, the storms that are affecting us are not battering individual houses, but a very large temple, full of many different rooms and additions, so while one part of the temple may be experiencing great strain, others can remain strong.

Paul also says that the temple houses the Spirit of God, which lives within the community. So Jesus is the foundation, but like most foundations, he is often invisible or barely visible, though the integrity of the entire building rests on him.

In other words, Jesus is made known through the “temple,” that is, the community of believers that rests on him. As the temple, we bear witness to our foundation through our ministry to both those inside and those outside of the church, and the Holy Spirit binds us all together.

We are Christ to one another. We are the ones who bear one another up through the power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of trying times. That’s why it’s important that we be more than just a club that gets together on Sunday mornings, but we be a community that lives life together. Celebrating in times of joy, mourning in times of grief, and supporting one another in times of doubt.

There are a lot of new transitions happening in our church. People are getting new jobs, some of us are dealing with injuries, some of us have experienced deaths in our families. The church has made a lot of changes in the past few months: y’all got a new pastor, we’ve started an adult education program, we’ve gotten new families. Our nation, obviously, is in a place of great uncertainty. I saw a newspaper article that said 2/3 of Americans are uncertain about our nation’s future.

Some of these things are painful, others are joyful, but all can lead to feelings of instability. Transitions can be as anxiety-inducing as they are exciting. They can cause us to question our very identity.

What if this job doesn’t work out?

What if our church changes too much?

What if my faith can’t withstand these doubts?

Will I come out of this a completely different person?

Paul reminds us where our identity ultimately lies. He says, “you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

The good news is that our identity isn’t based upon our job or ability to hold it all together or even our doctrine.

It has very little to do with us and our ability to perform, and everything to do with Christ’s faithfulness to us.

He’s our foundation through it all, and foundations don’t move or go anywhere. “When we are faithless he remains faithful” (2 Tim. 2:13)

One thing I love about this church is our openness to different beliefs and thoughts. We believe there should be room to ask tough questions and hold different views, while still remaining committed to one another and to Christ.

Paul warns against those who would tear the church apart, presumably over differences in doctrine, practice, or opinion. He says, quite harshly, “If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy them, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”

The temple should remain intact, because it stands on one solid, firm foundation: Christ. A temple as big as the Church can hold diverse opinions, practices, and doctrines, so long as it remembers that it’s foundation is the resurrected Christ, and not those specific opinions, practices, and doctrines.

Christ, our foundation, bears us up in all our difference and diversity.

Christ, our foundation, is with us in the midst of the storm.

Christ, our foundation, will never let us go.

For we belong to him, and he belongs to God.