The Castle and the Wall

I confess, most of the sermons I have heard in my lifetime I have long since forgotten. Even the ones I wrote and preached myself are mostly lost to me until I look them up in my files or on my hard drive. Not much really sticks with us, does it?

But one sermon from long ago has lingered in my memory. It was 1988 at the Southern Baptist Convention and the preacher was Joel Gregory. Those were the days of denominational wars, doctrinal debates, baseless accusations and hard-line resolutions. Gregory ended his sermon with a story about a castle and a wall that was timely and prophetic though largely ignored by those original hearers. Lately, his story has come to mind, wondering if it might have a more contemporary application. You can decide.

Gregory recounted:

It was the ancient home of the Castlereagh family, one of the most princely residences of the Emerald Isle. But the ancient home fell into decay and was no longer inhabited.

The usual happened. When peasants wanted to repair a road, build a chimney or pig-sty, they would scavenge stone from the fine old castle. The stones were already craftily cut, finished and fit. Best of all, they were available without digging and carrying for miles.

One day Lord Londonderry visited his castle. He was the surviving descendant and heir. When he saw the state of his ancestral home, he determined to end immediately the robbery of the building for its stones.

The ruin itself reflected the earlier glories of his family and was one of the treasures of Ireland. He sent for his agent and gave orders for the castle to be enclosed with a wall six feet tall and well-coped. This would keep out the trespassers. He went on his way.

Three or four years later he returned. To his astonishment, the castle was gone, completely disappeared, vanished into the air. In its place there was a huge wall enclosing nothing.

He sent for his agent and demanded to know why his orders had not been carried out. The agent insisted they had been. ‘But where is the castle?’ asked the Lord. ‘The castle, is it? I built the wall with it, my Lord! Is it for me to be going miles for materials with the finest stones in Ireland beside me?’

Lord Londonderry had his wall—but the castle, without which the wall meant nothing, had disappeared. It's a strange irony, to lose what we treasure by our efforts to protect it. Especially when what we lose is our identity, our family legacy, our ancestral home.


Joy said…
Love this story- and it seems very timely

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