Make This Place Our Home (1) : A Strong Foundation
When I think of things leaning, being unstable and in danger of collapsing like a deck of cards, the first thing that comes to my mind is the bell tower in the cathedral square in Pisa, Italy, famously known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Who of you has been to the site and seen the tower? This is how not to build a tower, folks.
They got as far as the second floor in 1178 when the one side began to sink away. The work was halted for over 100 years not because of the tower leaning but because of military conflict. They would have kept on building had it not been for war with neighboring cities.
Had they kept on building, the tower most certainly would have toppled over at some point. The 100-year break allowed the soil to settle enough to continue the work.
Amazingly, instead of trying to fix the foundation somehow, engineers decided to build the upper floors with one side taller than the other to compensate for the lean, giving the structure an actual curve.
Even if it could be straightened out, the tower would still have a curve because of the uneven floors. What a crazy mess!
Do you know what the culprit was? The culprit was a shoddy foundation only three meters deep in unstable subsoil.
Who would build anything, let alone a tower in unstable soil? Yet it happens all the time.
There have been all kinds of other structures from buildings to bridges and maybe even a tower of two that have collapsed because of a poor foundation.
None are more famous than the Leaning Tower Of Pisa.
Any engineer will tell you that the most important aspect of a build is the foundation. If you don’t get that right you face the danger of the whole thing collapsing unto itself.
More than once, the Scriptures talk about laying strong foundations so that things don’t topple over.
The classic passage is the Wise and Foolish Builders at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“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.” Math. 7:24-27
The one house topples over and the other one stands tall and proud.
What is the difference? It’s not the environment, since the same storm rages in both instances.
The difference was that one house was built on rock and the other on sand. This all comes back to the foundation. It comes back to what you are building on.
In this case it had to do with whether we live out the life principles of the Sermon in the Mount.
“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.”
Building on a strong foundation – that’s what I am talking about!
What’s true of our homes and our lives is also true of our church!
We have just come out of a series on Ephesians where for 13 sermons we hammered home the idea that the church is the family of God.
The House of God
Well, the family isn’t the only imagery of the church in the Scriptures. There are many other images or pictures that capture what the church is, including this idea of the church as the house of God.
Peter says that we “like living stones, and are being built into a spiritual house” and with it, he introduces us to the church as the house of God.
Just like any structure, the church rises or falls based on the foundation.
I love Peter’s imagery in I Peter 2 of the family of God as a spiritual building that is being built on a strong foundation, with us in it as living stones.
“As you come to him, the living Stone you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:4-5
Even though we are the family of God, we are also a spiritual house, that houses the people of God so as to be what Peter says in I Peter 2:9.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In that house are not only living stones being cemented, in which are you and I, but also cornerstones which serve as foundational anchors that hold up the entire spiritual house.
Peter reminds us of this when he wrote:
“For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6
This is the foundation upon which the spiritual house is built.
The Chief Cornerstone
Key to the foundation is its cornerstone, which sets the tone and strength for the entire foundation and eventually the structure build on top of it.
Cornerstones were the principal stones carefully positioned at the corners of the foundation.
Who was that cornerstone? None other than Jesus Christ who was hinted at in the Old Testament and realized in the New.
The Book of Isaiah, for example, has many references to the Messiah to come. In several places He is referred to as “the Cornerstone” such as in Isaiah 28:16-17:
“So this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
God is speaking to scoffers and boasters when He refers to the Cornerstone—His precious Son—who provides the firm foundation for their lives, if they would but trust in Him.
In the New Testament the cornerstone metaphor is continued and clarified. Jesus is the cornerstone! Not only do we build our lives on him but also our churches and ministries.
Both Paul and Peter are very clear as to who is the Cornerstone:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Eph. 2:19-21
Jesus is the chief cornerstone within the foundation of the spiritual house that the apostles and prophets laid down in the city of Ephesus.
As we know, this magnificent organic structure called the House of God thrived in the city of Ephesus with thousands coming into the family, and all because the foundation that the church fathers laid was Jesus as the chief cornerstone.
If we do the same then it bodes well for us. Any time you build on Jesus as the chief cornerstone, it will go well regardless what you build, and regardless the size and shape of the structure.
The House of Dreams
You know we are building, don’t you? Not physically, at least not yet. We are building a house of dreams.
We are endeavoring to listen to what the Spirit is saying about how to build our House of Dreams right here in the North End.
If you joined us at our June Family Chat you may recall that we envision our House of Dreams to look like this:
We want to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
This is the spiritual house we are building. It visualizes God already at work in the North End and us stepping into God’s work.
With all of the discerning we did in our roundtables this past spring, along with our elders, the sense we have is that God is calling us to build a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
In a couple of weeks I will unwrap this further for us.
What we need to realize though is that no matter the shape of our spiritual house, if it’s not on a strong foundation it will shift and possibly collapse like the Tower of Pisa.
You Are the Messiah!
So more than the shape and size the question is “yeah, but what about the foundation”?
With this I point us back to Jesus as the chief cornerstone. We actually need to be very clear on how we see as Jesus.
You see, Jesus is so many things to so many people. You can ask 10 people who Jesus is and you will get 10 answers, none of which may be true.
In fact, even in Jesus day there was ambivalence as to who Jesus was. Listen to Mark 8 for a moment:
“27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”
If that was so in his day it is also so in our day.
“Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” That’s like building on sand! It may be a version of Jesus but the not the right one.
It’s like saying Jesus is a teacher, social activist, defender of the poor of personal guru.
You build your house on that and I promise you it will collapse.
And I promise you that this more than just being a stickler for details. When it comes to Jesus the i’s have to be dotted and the t’s crossed.
So Jesus comes to us and asks “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” to which we echo Peter’s amazing answer of “You are the Messiah.”
When you unwrap that, and when you own that you will have found the chief cornerstone of your foundation.
You are the Messiah! Messiah means Savior. What does it mean to be a Savior, except to say that he saves his people from their sins?
His very name means this: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
The name Jesus comes from the Greek name Joshua which literally means the Lord saves.
When Peter realized that and declared his allegiance to Jesus as the Saviour of our sins, at that moment he laid down an incredibly strong foundation upon which the church would be built.
“Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”
The foundational rock Jesus is referring to when he said “on this rock I will build my church” was Peter’s firm conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Any believer that believes this is standing on rock solid ground.
Any church, regardless of the shape and size of the house of God it wants to build, if it believes at its core that Jesus is the one who saves people from their sins has built on solid rock.
On this rock – on this confession and belief – I will build my church Jesus said. And furthermore when the storms of hell blow “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
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.
That is our pledge to you: We will continue to lay down a strong foundation with Jesus, the Savior as our Chief Cornerstone!
Even as we build our dream house, as well as follow the Spirit’s leading, our pledge is that we will seek to build on the sure foundation of Jesus our Savior.
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.