Sermon: Bois D’Arc Rocks
That Big Rock Church
When people ask me where I work, I tell them I am the pastor of Bois D’Arc UMC. Often, they ask me where Bois D’Arc is, what a Bois D’Arc is, or if I mean “Boise De Ark.” If they have ever been to or through Bois D’Arc, they ask me the same thing: “that big rock church?” I’ve heard it probably 50 times, but it always takes me a minute. Uh… okay. That big rock church.
Big? No. Rock? Yes. Church? Yes, it’s a church. When the former district superintendent was telling me about the awesome potential assignment she had for me five years ago, she told me that the Methodist church was the healthiest church in Bois D’Arc. That’s a pretty tall order. But it wasn’t her description of the Methodist church in Bois D’arc that convinced me to accept an assignment at this little country church. It was the stories from people in my downtown Springfield church who had grown up here: Gregg Johnson and Kristi Weigand. They spoke fondly of the little rock church in Bois D’Arc. They didn’t talk about the building. They didn’t talk about the size. What they talked about were the people. I’d met Taylor Hollis before I came to Bois D’Arc, but I had heard stories about Betty and Jim Squibb, Mary Lea Hicks, Gwen and Bob Baker, Marilyn Harris, Monye Richter, and Ann and Wayne Peters long before I ever walked through the glass doors and thought, “Yeah… this is home.” See? Even your pastor felt it.
A few years ago, we dug ourselves a garden to help feed the communities around us. We picked a spot that looked flat and fertile, but as soon as the plow hit the ground, we knew we had a problem. Underneath the grass on our property there are rocks. Lots of rocks. Big rocks. There were rocks so big the tractor couldn’t make it through the soil. Rocks so big we couldn’t lift them. We had to bring in a special machine that shook the rocks to the surface. “Bois D’Arc rocks!” took on a new meaning for the 40+ people who picked rocks so that we could grow a garden that first year and the next year… and the next year.
In the Middle East, in Israel, the soil is different. It’s sandy. It’s difficult to build a house there, and a bad idea to build it on the sand, as Jesus explains. Floods come, water pushes the sand, the wind blows, houses fall down. You have to build your house, Jesus said, on rock.
Jesus is not just giving building advice here. This piece of advice, this instruction, comes at the very end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He has been giving instructions for living good, meaningful, God-centered lives, and he ends it by telling people that he means them to apply these instructions. Don’t listen, go back home, and continue to live the same life. Don’t build your house on sand; build it on the rock. Don’t build your life on sand; build it on the rock. This stuff should change your lives!
I appreciated the chance to meet with several of our members and record just a few of the memories they share. It’s pretty cool to have the people named in the stained glass windows we love sitting in the pews with us loving us back. This is a great time to be a part of this big (or little) rock church.
Because this little rock church matters. It matters to those who built it. This church was built with local labor and local rock. After the original white wooden church burned down, this church was built without debt by church members as the school was being built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. It mattered to the people who worshipped in the basement for four years while it was being built. It mattered to the women who cooked extra dinners to bring to the workers. It mattered to the kids who sat on the steps during VBS in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and even in 2011 when we took a photograph on the steps of all the church and neighbor kids who feel at home when they walk in these glass doors and see Jesus knocking on the door to our heart. It mattered so much to the Ladies Aid Society that they met every Friday to quilt and embroider items to sell at their yearly Bazaar and Turkey Dinner so that they could keep the church moving forward. It mattered enough to the working women that they began a Guild, now UMW, so that they could contribute as well. It mattered to pastors, whether Rev. Branstetter who stayed for 18 years or the many who stayed through what we call “the 2 year curse.” It has mattered to Trustees who made the decisions about when to build and what to build and how to get it done. It mattered to youth group leaders, Finance Chairs, Sunday School Teachers, Pianists. It mattered.
And it matters now… to many of these same families who were involved in its construction, but to other families who have come to worship here and bring children and grandparents and friends to experience life in a little rock church that is filled with families who have built their lives on THE ROCK by worshipping him inside this little rock church. These families, whether they were here when the church was being built or are here building it now… they didn’t go home after hearing his words and live the same lives. Jesus’ words mattered to them. The rock matters to them. These rocks matter to them.
They matter to Joann Pipkin who made our advertisement and to her daughter, Jera, who was confirmed this year and to Jera’s brother, Jace, who gets the next 50+ years to fall in love over and over again with Claire Searcy. It matters to Steve Floyd, to Justin, and to Kelly, to Jeremy and to Sara, to Mollie and Claire and Hannah. It matters to Ann Peters. It matters to Aubrey and Erma and Missy and Jamie and Sam and Tate and Jacob. It matters to Ryan and Jawan, to Ben and Madilynn. It matters.
It matters. This little rock church matters because this is where generations of their family have learned, learn, or will learn, have sung, sing, or will sing about, taught, teach, or will teach about, have praised, praise, or will praise: the rock.
It matters to Jesus Christ. It matters to his kingdom, because it is his body in this community, redeemed by his blood, practicing holy communion with him, singing praises to His Father, experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit, blown at, rained on, ice-covered, and still standing. Still moving. Still changing. Still opening minds, doors, and hearts. It matters to Jesus Christ because it is not a community center. It is not an set of memories and sets of empty pews. It matters to Jesus Christ because it works with Him to build His Kingdom and because it points to the rock.
Jesus is the rock. The rock on which we can build our houses. The rock on which we can build our families. The rock on which we can build our lives. Floods will come. Storms will come. Winds will blow. Hail will fall. But our lives are built on the rock and in many ways revolve around this beautiful pile of rocks that mattered, matters, and will continue to matter… because it is built on the rock of Jesus Christ out of the rocks of Bois D’Arc soil. Amen.