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Where is God when it rains?

By Nathan Decker

My house is sinking. You can see evidence in my front yard where the brick sidewalk that once probably was level or above the ground has now slowly sunk down. Other pastor’s houses in the area suffer the same problem. Since the day they were built they started sinking, and what’s more is that your house probably is as well. Every time it rains, the soil rises just a little.

Here in the Tidewater area our houses are built on sand. A friend named Jim Hewitt served on the Eastern Shore with me. The soil there and here are very similar. Jim, like me, came from the mountains. Jim’s wife Linda wanted to plant a rose bush in the front yard. Jim called Miss Utility; then he went to his shed to get out the implements of destruction. He dug out the post hole digger, auger, bar, sledge hammer, spade, shovel, rake, crowbar and planned for a long afternoon. Now some of you think I’m joking, but all of these are helpful if you’re planting a rose bush in the mountains where the two best kinds of soil you can hope for are hard clay and pure rock. Jim spent 45 to 60 minutes gathering tools and finished planting the rose bush in 10 minutes with just the post hole digger and shovel. Here in Tidewater, we know nothing about rocks.

Jesus tells a story today of two properties. The first is a bit of a fixer-upper, good views, good neighbors, strong foundation (a rock). The HOA (Home Owner’s Association) is led by a great guy, but he has some really particular advice about life that you have to agree to follow to live in the house. Oh, did I tell you about the vista off the back porch? You can see the whole plan he has for your life from here! Don’t like that one? Jesus can show you another property. The second is a beautiful two-story home, fireplace, newly renovated kitchen, 5 bedrooms, 2 ½ bath, den, living room, dining room, shed out back for the man cave, lots of storage space in the attic, and um … built on sand. Which one do you want to buy?

Jesus tells a story today about two properties: Listen and Practice. When we listen to the lessons Jesus teaches us we are convicted, we are hopeful, we are invited. When we practice the life Jesus teaches us we are the best version of ourselves, we are pilgrims on a journey called life, we are disciples, the Church, the people on the way. We are called to listen and practice because Jesus is preparing us.

Life is going to have storms. Why do bad things happen to good people? I get asked this a lot. I don’t have good answers. We want to know the where and why storms happen in our lives. Jesus doesn’t answer this, explicitly. It is as if he is saying without saying, “If you are alive, your life is going to have storms.” In life we will experience heartache. If we live long enough, we’ll see people we love die. We will die. There will be days when we offer the world our very best only to find that once we have, it gets thrown back in our face. And other times we’ll follow the rules, do our duty, and still some cheating and lying scum will get ahead of us to remind us that life is not fair. Life has storms, but God gives us a choice.

We can be alone or we can build a home. Jesus said, “Those who listen and do what I have said are like a man who is not alone, who builds his house upon the rock, who has the security in the foundation of stone.”

We can listen. We can listen to the stillness of the rock that is our foundation. We can hear the strength of the living Word who gives us hope. We can put our ear to the ground and all the whistling wind and roaring thunder is drowned out by the voice of God in the rock.

We can be alone or we can build a home. We can practice. We can practice being faithful even when it isn’t popular or easy to do so. We can practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, devotion, fasting, reading our Bibles, fellowshipping even at a distance with the faithful. We can practice speaking words filled with life instead of death. We can practice posting messages of hope instead of despair. We can practice living as if we were already fully in the Kingdom of Heaven and by doing so make this world get a glimpse of God’s grace and mercy.

Where is God when it rains? That depends on you and me. We can listen and practice our faith in Christ and when the rains come down and floods come up we will find God is with us through the storm. Or … we can ignore Jesus. We can hear but not really listen and replace his teaching with our own interpretation, our own comfortable faith, our own way. We can hear Jesus and smile that cynical smile knowing in our hearts we will ignore the Holy Spirit Home Inspector who just told us this is dangerous ground, no foundation. We’ll do it our way. We’ll build it on our terms. We’ll build on the sand. And God stands off afar weeping, because the thunder clouds and rain will surely come.

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.