The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

July 18, 2021
8th Sunday after Pentecost
9:30 am


“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand,”
wrote Edward Mote.


O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

PRELUDE                   “My Rock, My Fortress”                   Eliot


you who are weary.
you who are anxious.
you who are uncertain.
you who are burdened.
Come away
to a deserted place,
to a restful place,
to a renewal place,
to a grace-full place,
with Jesus. Amen.

Click for: HYMN No. 638  “O Come and Sing unto the Lord”  vs. 1-4


Jesus invites us to be honest with ourselves and with each other. Let us pause now to examine our hearts and confess our sins to God.


God of mercy, our need is great. The pandemic has left us tired, anxious and uncertain. We have stretched beyond our limits and numbed ourselves to our pain. We have accepted getting by as good enough. We have rejected your offers of spiritual food as unrealistic and impractical. Help us, Holy God, to acknowledge and confess our need. Help us embrace your command for Sabbath rest. Help us care for ourselves so we can continue to care for others. Amen.
Silence is observed


Jesus invites the thirsty to drink from his well. Jesus invites the hungry to dine at his table. In Christ, we are forgiven, we are filled, we are made whole. Let us hear, accept and embody this Good News.

RESPONSE No 638 “O Come and Sing unto the Lord” v. 5


Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”

MUSICAL INTERLUDE                    “Coming Home to God”                   Spielberg


(all children will remain in the sanctuary)


Illuminating God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Highlight the message you intend for us today through your Word read and proclaimed and set us on your path of righteousness. Amen.


Matthew 7:24-29

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

SERMON   “This I Know: A House on Sand Will Go Go Go”

The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood firm

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the sand went crash

The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the sand went crash

I imagine most, if not all, of us are familiar with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is probably the most famous example of a building with a pronounced flaw. The top floor of the tower is 12 feet off of center! The tower began leaning soon after its first floors were constructed in the year 1173. It was actually constructed in three phases over nearly two hundred years. The lean began almost immediately, and the angle was so much that, by the time the upper floors were constructed, the engineers decided to build the highest floors with one side taller than the other. In 1990, there was a concern that the building might actually collapse and so it was closed to the public for over a decade to work on strengthening the structure. During that work, millions of dollars were spent to shore up the leaning tower. Yes, this tower has been leaning for over 800 years. Do you know why?

The tower does not lean because of a poor design of the tower itself. It doesn’t lean because of poor workmanship. It doesn’t lean because it was made of an inferior grade of marble. No, it leans for one reason only. It leans because it was built on an inadequate foundation. It is built on ground made of clay, sand and shells in an area with a very shallow water table. The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans because it was not built on a firm foundation.

The fact that this particular tower leans is what makes it famous. The engineers working to stabilize the tower actually chose to not straighten it out too much because it would no longer be interesting for people. Tourism would fall off. Who wants to visit the formerly-leaning Tower of Pisa?

However, our lives must not reflect that attitude. We need to have lives that are built on steady foundations. That’s what Jesus was telling us about in our Gospel lesson for today. He said that the wise person builds their house on rock, rather than on sand.

Most of us have probably built sandcastles. They are fun to build, but you know when you are building one that it is very temporary. It is an enjoyable experience, but when you build on the sand, the building is not going to last.

Jesus was teaching His followers about firm foundations. The problem is that many people in ancient Palestine didn’t want to build their houses on the rocks. Building on the rocks took a lot more time and energy than building on the sand. Building on the rocks meant you had to endure backbreaking labor, smashing bigger rocks into smaller rocks. You had to assemble the rocks just so before you built the house. Building on the sands was much easier. Often, people took the path of least resistance and built their houses along the riverbeds. Waterfront property was popular, even then. It was nice to be there along the river— you had nice scenery and easy access to water for cooking, drinking, and bathing. And those bothersome floods couldn’t come around that often, so what’s the risk?

It was shortsighted thinking. When the floods came—and they did come—those houses built on the sand could not withstand the raging waters, but those houses built on the rock foundation could. When, as the children’s song says, “the rains came down and the floods came up,” the houses built on the sand collapsed. That wonderful children’s song evokes such vivid imagery. The rains came down, and the floods came up. “And the house on the rock stood firm.” Not so for the house built upon the sand. Here’s where that song gets really good – “and the house on the sand went SPLAT!” What fun it was to sing that part! SPLAT! What kid doesn’t want to sing “SPLAT?” While the house on the sand was more fun to sing about, we get the point that the house built on the rock stands firm, and that is what we should strive to be like. Jesus says “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”

And so, the metaphor is a compelling one. The language is evocative. The imagery is vivid in our minds. We want to build our lives on the rock foundation, so that we can remain standing in the midst of the storms. Jesus tells us that, though there will be floods and winds that will attack us in life, if our foundation is strong, we will remain standing. We are not promised an easy life if we build ourselves on a strong foundation. We are not promised lives without any pain or struggle. The same words are used for both houses: “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.” Life happens to all. It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous. We are promised that, when the winds and floods batter us, we can stand tall. We are promised that Jesus will be with us through it all.

Right now, we may feel like the rains are falling, the flood waters are rising, and the winds are strong around us.  The last 18months have been difficult with quarantine, vaccines, elections, uncertainty and anxiety.  We must not let the coming months be placed upon sandy soil.  We must remember that our foundation is rock! The church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and will not fall! Jesus has promised us that He will be with us, through it all. Jesus is our rock and steady foundation!

How do we continue to be built on that steady foundation? Jesus tells us how it was that the wise one built a house on the rock. He made it clear. It’s quite simple – all we have to do is hear Jesus’ words and “act on them.” Simple enough, right? Just do what Jesus says.

But, of course, it’s just that easy and just that hard. It’s easier to build on the sand than on the rock. It’s always easiest to take the path of least resistance. It’s easiest to come to church on Sundays – or to not come to church at all – and then live the rest of our lives whatever way we want. But Jesus said “everyone…who hears these words of mine and acts on them.” It is not enough to come to church on Sunday mornings. It is not enough to read our Bibles. It is not enough to think nice thoughts and say our prayers. It is not enough to know what it is that we are to do if we do not actually do it! It’s not enough to just “go to church” – we must be the church!

Jesus made this statement about “these words” at the end of the sermon on the mount, the collection of instructions found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. There is so much instruction and wisdom. There is so much for us to read and understand. But, we also have to do what Jesus says. He says we have to act on His words. We have to study His words and learn what they mean for our lives. We have to internalize His words, so that they are second nature to us. But more than that, we have to take action. Loving our enemies – those are not just trite words. It is an instruction to us that is to be taken literally. We are truly to love our enemies, whether they a neighbor that really gets on our nerves or a politician with whom we strongly disagree or even a terrorist. We are to love everyone, even those who wish us harm. We really are supposed to do that! This is not a simple, naïve notion that we can ignore. We are to do as Jesus did and love our enemies. Hanging on the cross, with some of his last breaths, Jesus cried out to God to forgive those who were killing him.

We are to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth. That’s not just something nice to think about – it’s a command. We, Americans are especially guilty of breaking that command – we store up stuff all over this earth. Just look at the number of self-storage buildings that have popped up all around. Though American houses keep getting bigger and bigger, we have so much stuff we cannot even fit it in our houses anymore. Jesus told us not to worry and not to judge others, and anyone who listens to most of us talks knows we are guilty of both of those sins. He wasn’t kidding about that! And we know the golden rule so well and yet we practice it so poorly. Jesus told us that it is not enough to know these things if we do not follow them.

The Message paraphrase captures this vividly: “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

Jesus tells us the wise person builds on the rock. If we are to be wise, we have to build our lives on the rock of Jesus Christ. This is about our lives in all that we do, inside and outside of this building. We have to follow His commands. We have to have strong foundations so that our lives do not look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This church stands straight and strong because of its foundation, built by our spiritual ancestors. It has weathered storms over the years, and will continue to do so, rooted in faith and carrying out the will of God. May we be wise, as we continue to build this church on the rock of Jesus Christ.  So “that the house won’t go…. SPLAT!” Amen.

Liturgy and Commentary provided by Terry McDowell Ott, Eric S. Corbin, Cynthia A. Jarvis, Ligonier Ministries, Steven Sizer, Isaac Butterworth, Daniel Triller.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from a Brief Statement of Faith)

We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father. In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community.  But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.  Ignoring God’s commandments, we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.  We deserve God’s condemnation. Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.  In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth.  Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage.  Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.  Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.

Click for: HYMN No. 697 “Take My Life” 300th Anniversary Hymn


God of grace,

You alone know our needs, the concerns that weigh heavy on our shoulders, responsibilities that are unrelenting, duties that are exhausting. There are days when the burdens we carry overwhelm us, days when we cannot see ourselves free.

And yet, the sky is full of your promise —

the rainbow appears at the end of the storm, the fireflies dance when the sun goes down, the green leaves unfurl and reach for rain.

Turn our eyes, Holy God, to these signs of life and hope. Open us to the natural treasures of your uncompromising presence. Enlighten us to your glory as we pause to appreciate the summer days. Like a breeze cooling us in the hot humid air, your love embraces and satisfies the loneliest, most exhausted of souls. May our spirits know this summer Sabbath, so we can know your peace.

Compassionate God, we know you are close to all in need, and by our prayers for others we come closer to you. Hear our prayers of intercession for the people in our families, our community, our nation and our world.

We pray for the healing of those who are sick …
We pray for the poor and impoverished, the oppressed and the marginalized …
We pray for victims of violence, systemic and domestic abuse …
We pray for those whose lives have been shattered by tragedy or disaster …
We pray for those who grieve …

United as a family of faith and as the Body of Christ, we lift these prayers up to you, God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Finally, hear us pray the prayer Christ taught us, saying, Our Father …

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.


The flowers in the sanctuary are given in the glory and honor of God by Ed and Carol Parkin in loving memory of Elinor L. Parkin.


We are blessed. Now let us be a blessing to others through the presentation of our tithes and offerings.




Holy God, you call us to live generous lives. You give to us abundantly so we may give to others. May your care for us be reflected in our offerings today, that these gifts might spread your love and your hope to a needy world. Amen.

Click for: HYMN No. 634 “To God be the Glory”


Inspired by God’s Word,
renewed by worship,
encouraged by the Spirit’s constant presence,
May we go in grace,
May we go in peace,
May we go and grow in God’s love.