Not a heron on a bus
Yesterday’s reminiscences about falling asleep in lectures brought to mind a little parable. I was in an Old English lecture, and the lecturer read a passage in OE and asked us to identify it. For once, my extensive Bible trivia came to the fore and I, for the one and only time in an English lecture, offered the right answer.
When I hear this story read, I remember the Old English which was all very onomatopoeic. The wise man who built his house on the rock was something like “ his hus ofer stan getimbrode”. When the weather hit there was a “micel flod” and “bleowon windas”. My favourite word has “hruron” which Google was wondering if I was Googling for “heron on that bus” when I was Googling for “ahruron on that hus”. I think “hruron” can be good onomatopoeia for weather encircling and threatening a home. When the foolish man had his house on the sand and the “flod” and the “windas” came his “hus feoll” and “his hryre (or something approximating to that ) waes micel”. Indeed.
I can’t believe I would ever regret trading in my “Sweet’s Anglo Saxon Primer” – but there you go.
But what of the parable?
It is about wisdom being less about knowledge and more about action. It is all very well knowing that Jesus said such things as “Love your neighbour” and at an intellectual level figuring out that that would indeed be a good course of action. It is about taking a step and holding one’s neighbours’ needs as priorities.
So much in modern life is choked with inaction and apathy. People know what would be good for their health – mental, spiritual and physical. We know we should eat right; we know we should exercise. We know what we should learn to forgive, to “let it go”. But the effort of making a change, of digging down to the right foundation on which to build is too much of a challenge, and we go on, camping out on sand, knowing that it’s not sustainable. It’s not wise.
Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” is full of wisdom and full of challenge. He said:
‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Maybe it is a middle-age thing, but, statistically, there are going to be metaphorical storms ahruron on our metaphorical houses.
Best not camp out on the sand, then.