House of Faith – With Love from Cuba

This is the sermon that I preached through an interpreter on May 14, 2017 at Eglasia Presbyteriana Union de Reyes and also Eglaisia Presbyteriana Sabanilla in Matanzas Presbytery, Cuba. It is based on Matthew 7:21-27

Hello! I bring you greetings from the United States of America, the Presbytery of South Louisiana, and First Presbyterian Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. While it is my privilege to represent the church that I serve, it is an even greater honor to come before you as a brother and a servant of Jesus.

It is in his name that I come before you, and because of your faith in him my belief in God is strengthened and encouraged. In fact, many of my friends were confused when I told them why I was going to Cuba. They said, “Oh, you are going on a mission trip!” I said, “No. I am going for missionary training. The mission trip will begin when I come home from Cuba!”

So, my brothers and sisters, I am well aware that your faith is strong. I am not deceived into thinking that my country, or my house, or my faith is better or stronger than yours simply because of the place where I live. For all of us must stand before the Lord in judgement as equals, even though each of us may come from different circumstances in this life.

While we are on this earth we have much to learn, much to share, and much to do for God’s kingdom. I think that overcoming the differences in our language is an example of the work that we must do together. So, I would like you to teach me a few words today, even as I teach you about the scriptures. I have a drawing of a house, and I would like you to teach me about some of the parts of the house. I will point to them, and I would like you to tell me what they are.

(I pointed to the Door, Window, Roof, and Foundation and repeated after them.)

Gracias! Thank you! I want to talk a little bit about our faith as though it were a house. But first I want to reflect a little bit on our Scripture Reading.

In the scripture reading, Jesus talks discipleship. He talks about people who claim to have done wonderful things in his name, but are ignored by him because they did not glorify God. They pointed to themselves, saying, “Jesus, look what I did!” and Jesus responds, “I do not know you.” Why would he do that?

In this whole chapter, Jesus has been talking about those that criticize others without thinking about their own responsibilities. He begins by saying, “Why complain about the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you have a log in yours!” Over and over, Jesus warns us against people that claim their own authority. He warns us against people who act like they have all the answers, but also do not have any compassion.

And this is what Jesus means he says, “If you hear my words and do not put them into action, then you are like a foolish builder.” And even though he is talking about houses and wind and rain, what he is really talking about is putting your faith into action.

That makes me wonder how our faith can be like a house. Well, every house has a door, la puerta. It is the way we allow people to enter. If our faith is like a house, then we have to allow other people to come into our lives. We have to secure it against threats made by unbelievers, but sometimes we have to be vulnerable and let in strangers.

La ventanas, our windows, allow us to see outside. They keep us safe from the weather, but they allow us to see outside of our own experience. They allow to see the needs of others, so that we might respond.

La tejado, our roof, protects us from the sun and the rain. It reminds us that God is watching over us. God is with us in every storm, and through our faith in God we can even create safe spaces for others. If our faith were a house, the roof would surely be God’s love which covers us and saves us from all that threatens.

All of this is, of course, dependent on la fundación, the foundation. The foundation is the base that everything is built on. My friends, you can have the most beautiful house in all the land, but if the foundation is not secure it will fall. We see this all the time in the United States in marriages that fall apart, or in wealthy people whose sin is the love of money and are never truly happy.

The foundation for your life and for your faith cannot be the expectation that you know everything. It cannot be that you know how to get things done your way. It can only be a belief in the love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ. And if we believe, we must put that belief into action! We must not look away from the person in need. We must remember that our doors and windows and roofs and floors are given to us so that we can welcome the stranger, just as you have welcomed me!

Believe me when I say that your welcoming spirit has opened my heart, just as I knew it would. It has opened my heart because I know that you have invited me here because your faith is built on the strong foundation of the love of Jesus. It is a love so strong that even death cannot stop it! It is a love that opens our eyes like windows to let others see into our souls and to let us see the world as it truly is.

And the world is a place of darkness and of light. It is a place with rain and flooding. In South Louisiana we have had a lot of flooding this year. Over 50,000 homes were flooded in our region, and our congregation believed that we were too small to do anything to help. Even though we were not flooded, we felt like the foolish builder because our community was washed away. But then we realized something. We realized that our faith was built on Jesus, and we started talking to other Presbyterian congregations, and the Presbytery, and the staff of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Then we started getting volunteer groups to come in from all around the country to help repair flooded homes. And over time we have come to see that we are standing on solid ground. We have come to realize that the most important sermon that can be preached in our congregation is not the one that comes from my mouth on a Sunday morning. The most important sermon anyone can receive is the one they can see. It is the way they see our members creating space for volunteer teams from across the country. It is the way flooded home owners can see strangers come together and bring healing and love and laughter.

Last week we had one of the homeowners join us for dinner. She said the volunteers fixed her porch light. Then she said, “The flood was last August. That light has not worked in 10 years!”

Friends, that is what it means to be the church of Jesus. We bring light into darkness, but not because of who we are. It is always and only because of whose we are. And so you and me, and all who follow Jesus, must not only be hearers of the word. We must put our faith into action again and again and again, for in that way we will demonstrate that our faith is built on something that lasts.

Stay faithful, my friends! And may God be glorified in all we say and do when we are together and when we are apart. Amen.

[The sermon is intentionally a little simplistic due to time constraints and the limitations of my interpreter. They were most gracious to me, given that the Union de Reyes church has both raised up and been the home of several theologians and great preachers – including at least one current faculty member of the Seminary.]
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