Welcome to Winchester Cathedral, once the epicenter of royal, political and spiritual power in England and the final resting place of no fewer than nine Kings of England. Despite all that, it would have been reduced to a pile of rubble 100 years ago if it wasn’t for a humble deep-sea diver called William Walker. This is the story of how this huge religious building almost fell down because it was built on dodgy foundations. It has echoes of another story that Jesus told 2,000 years ago about a similar problem.
This straight talking hero of the street, spoke plainly about the human struggle and where the real solution is found. Sometimes that’s not the case, unfortunately, with the church of today. Ordinary people are often left very confused as to what it’s all about. The materials used in the construction of this place weighed more than 100,000 tons but there was a big problem, the foundations were not strong enough to hold it up. Jesus told a very famous story about two builders who built their own houses. For some unknown reason, Builder Number 1 built his house on the sand with disastrous results.
Builder Number 2, however, seems to have done his homework. He took his tools and materials off the beach and headed for higher ground to build his house on a much more solid base. When the storms arrived, Builder Number 2 had a perfect view of the seaside where Builder Number 1 was now sitting on his backside in the washed out ruins of his sand castle. Have you ever wondered why Jesus told stories to adults that are now usually found in the pages of books that are written for children and Sunday School teachers? It’s because most so-called grown-ups are not as smart as they think they are. But here’s an interesting thought.
The story really has nothing to do with builders or building houses, it was a very pointed illustration about foundations and what people build their lives on. Jesus went after the really big issues in life, the biggest ones of all and he cut to the chase. That's the reason why the humble and the ordinary loved him and proud and the religious despised him. I knew a guy who designed earthquake-proof skyscrapers in Hong Kong. He told me about the precise calculations that control the height of tall buildings. Guess what, it's all about the quality of the foundations. In other words, a building can only go as high as the foundations have gone deep.
Years ago, now, I had to face up to the reality that I was building my life on sand and mud. Now, the Bible says that Jesus is the Rock, not Dwayne Johnson, sorry about that. Jesus, through his fabulous life, death on the cross and death-defeating resurrection is God’s complete answer to the entire human problem. If we will humble ourselves and receive the forgiveness and fresh start he offers us, Jesus can become the solid foundation stone that we can build the whole of our lives upon. He knew what he was talking about when he told the story of the two builders.
Here's what happened when the foundations of Winchester Cathedral were compromised and cracks began to appear in its huge medieval walls. By 1903 some of them were so wide that a child could walk right through. A failed plan involved digging trenches 4 metres under the walls and filling them with concrete. But even the most powerful pumps in Britain couldn’t hold back the water for long enough. Everyone thought this 1,000-year-old cathedral was finished until William Walker stepped up to the plate. Every day for 6 years he worked 20 feet under the cathedral under water, in total darkness and in constant danger. The cathedral was saved by Walker, his dedicated team, 25,000 bags of cement and nearly a million bricks.
Inside the cathedral, there’s an 800-year-old Bible and here’s a sentence from it translated into modern day English. “God lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from the deep mud and stood me up on the solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip” Building your life on the Rock of Jesus is the very best thing you can do. It will hold fast through this life and carry you safely to Heaven. When the storms of life hit hard, the rain lashes down and the wind blows you can trust in Jesus completely. A famous old hymn writer put it pretty well I think “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand”