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The House of I'M
a sermon based on Matthew 7:21-29
by Rev. Thomas Hall

There once was a carpenter with a very strange name. He was called IíM. Strange name, but he was quite an accomplished architect. In fact, he was sought throughout the land for his architectural expertise. Started out of college with odd jobs-a pig shed here, a tool shop there, and then came the barns and houses. His career took him to the top of his field.

In his later years-at the pinnacle of his profession-he decided to create his dream house for his retirement: the ultimate condo. His condo would rise three stories high, have an atrium that would encase exotic flowers and have little hedgehogs running around the flower pots. He would build four baths, install beautiful Anderson bay windows, have a Jacuzzi, and crown molding around the perimeter of his living room.

"Hey, Verge!" his wife yelled, "you want some tea before you start?" IíM was embarrassed by his middle name. It was joke, really that his parents had decided that his middle name should be "Very." "Very?" So he changed the middle name to "Verge," though everyone in town knew the joke.

"No," he said, "Think Iíll go straight to the lumber store to get building materials." Now "IíM had thought this thing through. He would spare no expense in building his condo. No short cuts, no cheap imitations. Thatís why he drove right past Home Depot on his way to pay top dollar at a real lumber store.

"IíM sighed as he looked out over his newly purchased real estate. What a great piece of land. His property was flat, a little sparse, maybe, but an architectís dream. No hills or rocks to navigate around or blast. He still couldnít get over the deal he had struck with the realtor. Fifteen acres of land in the valley. IíM had sweat bullets all the way to closing. He didnít want the deal to fall through. For he knew he would never be able to get land as cheap as this anywhere in the kingdom. He smirked as he looked in the distance. There, another builder had not fared as well. He had paid more and got only three acres. Worse, the poor guy had to haul his materials all the way up to a knoll and then he had almost no soil-only one huge piece of rock. "Probably some meteor that fell, " IíM mused. "Not my property and not my problem."

Within weeks the cement block walls towered above the footers. And then the walls and the wiring, and the sheet rock and the prep work and the interior painting. Already, IíMís house was turning heads. Passersby would talk excitedly as they watched the progress.

Donít get the wrong impression of IíM. He was no assembly line, pre-fab kind of architect; no cookie cutter blueprints for him. Each design was unique; and thatís what his retirement home would be-unique and masterful. He also had focus. Got so engrossed that he all but forgot about his family. They no longer asked him to take them shopping. They knew by now that "dad was busy working on the condo." So they just didnít ask anymore. And mom knew that when it was time to bring the kids to band front, Young Ladies for a Better America, German Club, Jazz Dance, violin or scuba diving, she would bring them herself. Not IíM. No, IíM continued slowly, carefully to build his condo in the valley.

One day a bystander said a startling thing to IíM.

"Hey, Verge."

"Yeah?"

"You do know what this land is, donít you?"

"Of course! Flat level land. An architectís dream."

"Well, "IíM, havenít you noticed anything about the soil? Like havenít you noticed little shells scattered on your soil?"

"Now that you mention it, yes I have."

"Well, what are they doing there?"

"Maybe, theyíre fossils or something."

 

"Time for supper," IíMís wife called out. That cut the conversation short. But it did get IíM to thinking. So it used to be an old river bed or something. But it was dry as a bleached bone now. It wouldnít be until much later that he would recall that conversation again.

The day finally arrived when IíM completed his condo. It was magnificent. The local reporter did an interview snapping shots of the exquisite condo that IíM built. Even made the six oíclock evening news. What a day! What an accomplishment!

But IíMís accomplishment wasnít the only thing on the six pm news that night. "Weíre tracking Fran preeeettty close as she sweeps up the coast line. Better button down the hatches, weíre going to have gale force winds, maybe even a tornado will touch down." IíM should have listened to the weather report, but he had already surfed over to his favorite program. What else? "Home Improvement."

That night Hurricane Fran came within fifty miles of town. Everyone felt it. Torrential downpours, gusting winds. Hit IíMís house about midnight. The kids had turned off the computer and were just dosing off. IíM in bed with his wife who was already asleep, was himself slipping in and out of those final moments before sleep wins. I used the best materials. I built this house myself. My house is safe. I have nothing to worry about.

Thatís when IíM recalled that conversation months earlier about the shells and all. Right there in bed, as the winds began to pick up and rain began to pelt his roof, he thought, Shells? Flat land? No trees? Why? The next thought was a lightning rod: "Weíre sitting right in the middle of a wadi right in the middle of a storm!" His 911 level voice bolted the family from sleep.

The family stumbled down the stairs, out of the condo and into the car, pelted by rain and hail. They slipped and swayed on the driveway next to the swollen wadi. IíM headed up toward the rocky knoll to his nearest neighbor. Inside their car on the knoll the family sat in silence as they watched a torrent of mud and water turn their lifeís work into a catastrophe. The walls of the condo caved in like a crumpled shoe box. Within seconds it was all gone-the new carpet, the furniture, the priceless heirlooms-all smashing into each other as the debris bounced up and down in the fierce current.

Their neighbor on the hill was pained to see someone elseís catastrophe. All IíM had worked for had been reduced to toothpicks in a moment in time. Only then did the realization come: he had built his lifeís greatest achievement on a dried up, old, river bed. And though he had gotten the property at a basement bargain price, he had risked his life and the life of his family by building on the wrong place.

"Listen," offered the neighbor, "Iíll help you get started again. You can build up here near me. Iíve got plenty of space. By the way, the nameís Wiseheart. John Wiseheart. But even though weíre neighbors, I donít believe I know your name."

"Oh," said IíM in a dreary monotone. "My last name is Foolish. First name is, "IíM and my middle name is . . . well, just call me ĎVergeí."

"These words I speak to you," Jesus once said of his teaching, "are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart builder who built on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit-but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock."

"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and donít ever work them into your life, you are like a foolish carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

Whoever has ears to hear this morning let them hear and understand upon what-or upon Whom-they are building their lives. Amen.