Faith: A Firm Foundation for Life
I had the chance to participate in a remarkable Bible study this morning. I do it once every year. Each January, I join a group of four other Pastors and youth ministry professionals at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. We spend three or four days at camp and write the Bible study that will be used during the coming summer at Rainbow Trail, and during all the other ministries they offer (Vacation Bible schools, backpacking trips and servant events in Mexico). Then in late May and early June, when the summer staff is on site being trained, each one of us five writers gets a chance to come to camp and teach them for a couple of hours, based on the portion of the summer study that we have written. So earlier today, from 10:00 a.m. until noon, I sat out on the lawn near the pavilion with 65 college-aged camp staffers, and led a Bible study on Joshua and the early years of Israel's time in the Promised Land. We talked about what it means to trust God. We talked about what it means to be called by God to be a witness to the world of the hope that is ours. And we talked about what a difference it makes to believe that every minute of every day presents to us an opportunity to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
I am excited to know that there is a new generation of Christians emerging in our church who take their faith as seriously as these young men and women do, and who are determined to live in a way that honors their Lord and Savior. There's been a lot written lately about whether or not the mainline denominations will survive, much less thrive, in the coming decades. If this group of young people is any indication, we're in better shape than most people assume.
The remarkable thing about these young people is that many of them seem to be living with the kind of faith that Jesus describes in this weekend's Gospel lesson. In it, he speaks about two builders: a wise one and a foolish one. The wise one builds a house, and places it on a rock-solid foundation. The foolish one builds a house and places it on a sandy foundation. From all outward appearances, the houses could be identical. They could have the same materials, the same quality of construction, the same amenities, the same upgrades. But where it really counts - deep down underneath the home - in a place where no observer can see - the houses are dramatically different. The difference isn't apparent, of course, until hard times come. But when those times come, the differences are remarkable. The house built on sand falls in on itself, and Jesus says: "Great was the fall of it." The whole project comes crashing down, and what once looked fine and luxurious and impressive becomes a pile of rubble. But the house built on rock proves to be as solid as it looks. Hard times come, and the house stands strong, because it is built with wisdom: founded on a rock that wouldn't move.
Outward appearances don't always tell the whole story. You can't tell a book by its cover. You can't tell a house by its paint job, or by its decorative glass, or by its soft carpet. And you can't always tell a disciple of Jesus by the few outward signs of religiosity that might be apparent. Jesus tells the hard truth here: those who have a superficial faith - one that is largely made up of outward appearances - won't thrive when times get tough. But the flip side of the coin is evident as well, and it is great news: the Gospel truth. For those who have a faith that stands at the very center of who they are - a faith that serves as a foundation for all of life - they will find in that faith the strength to weather whatever the world might throw at them.
I'm very hopeful about these young people I spent time with yesterday. I don't know many of them well enough to be able to tell whether their faith is superficial posturing or a heart-felt trust in God. But I'm impressed with what I've seen so far. And I'm excited to spend a week with them a little later on this month. Please keep them in your prayers - that their ministry with our campers will be faithful this summer, and that they will continue to grow into a faith that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.