Jesus often used groups of images to illustrate a point or an idea. Okay, you’re asking me what else is new? What’s new is the opportunity to take another look at it from, maybe a different point of view, or perhaps to catch something that may be an “AHA!” moment. It may have been a long time ago since Jesus used these words, but somehow we forget that they may have had an understanding of something familiar to them but which doesn’t correlate with how we see it these days. Given the commemoration of 9/11 with buildings destroyed or severely damaged, and thousands of lives lost 18 years ago, at least part of this passage in Luke brings that to mind.
On the day the World Trade Centers were utterly destroyed, the buildings stood like gigantic torches as the plane crashed headfirst into it. Then, each tower crumbled as if the ground were reaching up to claim the rubble and the dust and debris of buildings and people, individuals on the street screamed, cried, and ran away. The Pentagon, a mighty building representing our military and its command centers and plan makers, was pierced in its side, killing many people and maiming others, leaving everyone across the country and the world to wonder what would be next?
When constructing the Twin Towers, they were built with strong foundations. They had stood tall and proud for years until they too were pierced by aircraft, something the engineers and builders had never dreamed would happen. The Pentagon, the building we sometimes vilify and sometimes look to for guidance and protection, received a severe blow both physically and emotionally. It was only part of the building; The gap formed from the plane has been rebuilt and memorials put around the grounds in honor of those who were lost either in the collision or as first responders and volunteers who risked their lives to rescue all that they could. Shanksville also has a memorial to those who died, preventing the third plane from achieving its hijackers to accomplish more death and destruction.
The story that Jesus told went on past the good trees and the bad trees to the story of men building good and bad foundations for their homes. In the 9/11 stories, it seems pretty obvious as to who most people believe were the bad fruits and who the good. But are we always right?
Jesus spoke of a man who was building a house and dug the basement down to the solid rock. That house was pretty safe against just about anything, except maybe a catastrophic earthquake, flood, or fire. There weren’t any jet planes or hundred-plus story buildings, so the house was pretty shockproof. Those who were in more of a rush to get the house put up probably didn’t think much about how deep to dig their foundations until the high winds came and storms blew. There might be some wailing and gnashing of teeth in the streets of the city worse those houses were knocked down while those of the other neighbors who had built for sturdiness and not just for expediency were standing. Jesus pointed these two men out as a parallel that people call out, “Lord, Lord,” when they find themselves in a pickle like a house blowing down, or an earthquake causing death by falling bricks. I can almost imagine Jesus standing there and pointing out, “Why didn’t you do what I told you?” Good question.
It takes more effort to build a house on a strong foundation on a solid substrate. God bless those people of places like the Bahamas and Puerto Rico who may not have foundations of stone to put their houses on, and often may not have money to put in solid walls and roofs that will withstand the force of a category five hurricane. Even those who tried their best to do that can find themselves homeless and often helpless at the same time. They have faith, and they pray to God, but God also expects them to work to help themselves and their neighbors.
God gave us all hands and hearts and brains so that we could go and support them, no matter if it’s inconvenient for us. We need engineers and well-trained builders, but we also need far more laborers to get the job done. Telling a story might give a dream a more precise prospect of what is possible, but it takes many people to make dreams into realities. Jesus had more than a dream; he showed his vision in words but also illustrated his teachings by his actions so they would be more explicit. We could say he taught them how to build strong foundations. Now it is up to us to do the work.
For those who suffered devastating losses by the travails of 9-11-01, we offer our continued prayers and work to make sure it can’t happen again here or anywhere else in the world. For those who have just undergone Dorian and all other natural and human-made disasters, we will do our best to serve God by helping those in need of whatever kind. To God, we offer ourselves and all that we can do to love and serve wherever and whenever it is required and to make sure our foundations are built solidly on the words and teachings of Jesus. It won’t be easy, but it is the only way to build the Kingdom of God on a firm foundation.
And we must remember to plant good trees. We’ll need good fruit to give us energy to do all the building we are going to have to do!
Image: Construction of the Freedom Tower, Author Aude, self-published work. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She has three furkids, Dominic, Gandhi, and Phoebe, who keep her busy and frequently highly amused.