“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.” Luke 6:46-48
Don Justo Gallego Martinez is building a cathedral. His materials are donated and salvaged—buckets and scrap metal, oil drums and cast-off bricks. Don Justo grew up on a farm outside the town of Mejorada del Campo, near Madrid. As a devout young man, he joined a Trappist monastery, but had to leave after 8 years when he contracted tuberculosis. He prayed that if he were to recover, he would build a shrine to show his gratitude. The shrine turned into the life-long project of this cathedral. Beginning in 1961, and working almost entirely alone, Don Justo has constructed an abstract monument of devotion over 260 feet long, and covering over 86,000 square feet.
It is unlikely that Don Justo’s cathedral will be completed in his lifetime. Although he still works on his project, he turned 92 last year, and age is catching up with him. It is uncertain what will become of his cathedral when he passes. It’s all a little strange, and while it seems solid enough, it was constructed without permits or planning, and it doesn’t have the sanction of the Catholic church or the community. It is simply one man’s devotion exercised over a long lifetime. It represents his commitment to the promise he made, and his willingness to be led by what he believes.
Don Justo is building a cathedral. What are we building? Don Justo’s story makes me think of the way we construct our lives. We can follow all the rules, get all the permits and approvals, and we can build something that fits in with all the expectations that the world places on us. Or, we might build a cathedral. Jesus talks about building things “right,” and it has nothing to do with curb appeal. His words as recorded by Luke illustrate that there is more than one way for us to approach the life Jesus calls us to. Apparently there were some that were more than willing to acclaim Jesus as “Lord, Lord,” and who thought that that simple profession was enough to warrant salvation. But Jesus is clear—their words are just made of air. It’s the actions that matter. The one who hears what Jesus is telling them to do and then does it, this is the one who is building right. Their life will be like the one who digs down to bedrock to lay their foundation, and their house is solid as a result.
Here’s where Don Justo comes into the story. Foundations aren’t always visible. The building they support might look a little suspect to the passerby. It might seem odd, or silly, like a hodgepodge of scraps and salvaged materials—oil drums and bits of scavenged metal. The building may not have the institutional blessing of the church or the city planning council. It may appear to everyone as a folly—a quirky, eccentric edifice built by a crackpot. People may scratch their heads and wonder what to do with it. Life can be that way for the Christian. The way Jesus calls us to live seems quirky and eccentric to the world. It’s certainly outside of the permitted patterns. Loving enemies? That’s weird. Praying for those that persecute you? Wacky. Losing one’s life in order to gain it? Well, that’s crackpot talk, as far as the world is concerned. Putting together a Christian life will seem pretty ridiculous to the world. But it’s the life Jesus calls us to, and what it looks like to the world isn’t really our concern. Our concern is that it is built right.
Whatever life we’re building, whether it blends harmoniously with its surroundings or starkly challenges preconceptions, will be judged not on it’s appearance, but on its foundation. Is it a life that’s dug down to the bedrock of obedience, or is it just a fancy facade—a paper castle that looks good on the outside but is only so much stubble and straw? The life that Jesus calls us to build—a life of devotion to His teachings—is a solid life, regardless of what the world thinks of it. And perhaps we should be a little like Don Justo. However strange it may look to those on the outside, we should just keep building on that solid foundation, as long as we have days to do so.
See you Sunday! John
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
I had an opportunity to give a presentation on Intergenerational Ministry at our District Board retreat this last weekend. One point in that presentation was that younger generations are often looking to the church to offer a place of respite from their busy lives. So much is “Go, Go, Go!” that they simply need a place to rest. Coming off a pretty busy week that was capped by this retreat, I understood where they were coming from. Particularly around the Holidays, we rush from one thing to another, without so much as a moment to breathe. It’s all so important, so we accumulate these heavy burdens, without realizing that Jesus calls us to simply rest at times.
Without getting into a lengthy discussion about priorities and activity within this community of fellow travelers—followers of an active Lord—I’ll simply say this: busy isn’t always good. There are times when down-time comes as a balm, a gift, and a blessing, particularly after a busy season. If you’re looking around today, after the bluster and commotion that often surrounds us at the end of the year, and you’re seeing a little space, a little breathing room, maybe Jesus wants you to simply receive it. Take a moment, lay down your burden, and let Jesus give you a little rest. That rest comes as a gift of grace, and grace isn’t something to dismiss lightly, but something to celebrate.
See you Sunday! John