Friday, 2 December 2011

Except the Lord build the House ...

A Homily for Holy Communion
at the Church of SS. Mary and Nicholas, Littlemore
Thursday, 1st December, 2011, 7.30 p.m.

Readings: Psalm 127 & Matthew 7:21 & 24-27

Planning Permission

“Except the Lord Build the House: their Labour is but lost that Build it”

Perhaps you have known, as I have, what it is to invest foolishly in something that would never deliver a return. It might be a car, a house, a training course, a job, a relationship. We choose something that flatters us, or for which we are desperate, and we build castles in the air about the success, the security, the confidence, the love, we might enjoy if the investment pays off. And then it comes tumbling down. It was the wrong choice. The wrong thing, the wrong work, the wrong career, the wrong person, it could only be the wrong outcome.

“Except the Lord Build the House: their Labour is but lost that Build it”

Why do we make such obvious mistakes? Why, when we know that judgement is coming, the judgement of parents or children or friends or employers or architects, or doctors or bailiffs, do we still make these mistakes? Why does our vanity make us do stupid things for short-term gain, when it can only bring us long-term unhappiness?

“Except the Lord Build the House: their Labour is but lost that Build it”

Believing people tell us we must trust in God, and we think, quietly, and behind our clenched fists “yeah, right, since when did he pay the bills?”. But they are right. It’s a different kind of investment. We relinquish power in order to share in another authority. We allow love in, in order to be loved. We risk losing our sense of ourselves, in order to understand God’s sense for us.

“Except the Lord Build the House: their Labour is but lost that Build it”

We travel hopefully. We apply for planning permission, and build according to the plan. We seek our weary beds, and the Lord “giveth his beloved sleep”. Will we ever know what we have built? Will we ever know we have laboured at the Lord’s work?

“Except the Lord Build the House: their Labour is but lost that Build it”

No, we won’t know. Not in this life. Not for sure. But we know this – if we don’t even seek to build that house with the Lord, nothing lasting will get built at all.

Lord God, give us wisdom to build the right house, and your helping hand to build it right. Amen.

Richard Haggis, Littlemore, Oxford, December 2011

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