Wallace Neff Home   Neff Bubble House  

#YourPlace a reflection for Sunday, July 5, 2015 asks, “How do did you learn your place? What types of rules determined your place in your family, your community, or your school? How does God determine your place in His overall mission to save the world? Find out in “Your Place”, the podcast for this week.  Available on itunes and android.   #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Carpenter #Son #Brother #Citizen #Charisms #Gifts #Mission

For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   7/5/2015 The 14th   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 6:1-13.

          You may have never heard of Wallace Neff, but he created something that you know about very well. He has a connection to silent film star Mary Pickford, the Singer sewing machine family, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Reese Witherspoon, of “Legally Blonde” fame. The connection is that he is the architect who designed their homes, their estates. Before his death, he created the community that we know of as Beverly Hills, California. He was the architect of the stars with the Spanish Colonial designs of terra cotta roofs and stucco walls, with winding driveways around fountained gardens. [I have a picture of one of the estates above this podcast at MySpiritualAdvisor.com].

          Recently, my daughter, Ruth, had me listen to a podcast with her about another creation of Wallace Neff. It is called the Bubble House. It seems to be the rage to write an article about Neff’s Bubble Houses. The LA Times, Slate Magazine, NPR, the LA Conservancy, all have articles or features on Neff’s Bubble House. There is even a book about it called, “No Nails, No Lumber: the Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff.”

          The concept is great. What happens is that a concrete pad is poured in the shape of a circle. Then a “ginormous” air bladder is placed in the middle and blown up to about ten feet high. This takes about five minutes. Then, dry concrete and water are blown over the bladder. After an initial coat, reinforcement bar is placed in the concrete. Then, a final coat of the concrete mixture is blown onto the bladder. After it dries, the reusable bladder is deflated and taken out the front door. You can build a basic dwelling in about 48 hours. Neff believed in the sustainability of them so much that he lived in one until his death.

          The problem with the project and why it didn’t catch on is that in the face of his brilliance and exquisite taste in Spanish Colonials, the bubble house was ugly. Yet, even more so, in architecture circles, the problem is that it seems that Neff was almost universally rejected among his colleagues. All of the bubble houses built by Neff have been torn down in the United States with the exception of the one he died in. In other parts of the world, where sustainability is much more important, there are communities that stand by this design.

          What I want to bring our attention to is that in the podcast about Neff’s Bubble Houses, is an interview with the architect who owns Neff’s dying home. He said that the reason that Neff’s work wasn’t accepted by his colleagues was because he was known as being a genius for his Spanish Colonial design that used the topography and climate to provide a very comfortable home before the advent of home air conditioning. The architect said, “It would be like Barry Manilow releasing a heavy metal album. No one would take him seriously.” [I have a picture of the Bubble House in the same spot as the estate at MySpiritualAdvisor.com].

          Jesus is faced in Mark’s Gospel today with a similar situation as Wallace Neff. No one would deny that Neff’s house was genius at providing low cost, long lasting homes which were sustainable and durable. We have a scene where Jesus has returned to his hometown and no one can deny that he is one pretty wise cookie. No one can deny that he is healing the sick, raising the dead, and doing all kinds of other wonderful things. Yet, for the brilliance of the Neff Bubble House, no one in the architectural community could accept it and Neff’s reputation as a brilliant architect amongst his own profession was slightly damaged. For Jesus, our Lord, the people stood around and said, “wait. Isn’t this the woodworker, the son of Mary down the way, the brother of these guys and someone who needs to remember his place?”

          We are offended by the people we know who do the unexpected on behalf of God. How many times have we heard people in our lives who knew someone famous say, “Well, he wasn’t always been like that! Here, let me steal some of his thunder.”? In every family system, community system, corporate system, and church family system, there are roles which we are expected to play. When we don’t play them, we are then shamed so that we will go back to our place.

          I love Jesus’ response to this. He doesn’t own their rejection and say, “Oh! My family! My hometown! I just wanted you all to give me your acceptance, trust, and support! What could I have done to be better?” No. Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. Then, he turns his direction to those who would receive the healing, the raising from the dead, and the preaching. To the hometown crowd, Jesus may have been the woodworker, the son, and brother, but to us and those who follow, he is the Messiah. He is the one who has come to save us from our sins, the unlikely poor boy who is the King of kings, the Lord of lords. His response to them is simply, “What is your problem?”

          Our God has the habit of choosing the most unlikely of candidates to do his job and convert the world. Abraham and Sarah were older than dirt when he called them to make the trip from Libya to Israel to make his people. Oh, did I mention that Sarah was way to old to give birth, but she gave birth to nations of people! Joseph was the youngest and was sold into slavery by his brothers, but he saved his whole family that would leave in the Exodus by a man who was to speak for God with a speech impediment. That guy was Moses. David, the youngest, was chosen to be King. Deborah, a woman, was chosen to be a judge over Israel. Amos was chosen to speak the prophetic word in Israel, even though he was a vineyard worker from Judah. The overall point here is not who someone is, but what God has given them the grace and charisms to do.

          All of us have baggage that our families know about. All of us have done things for which we are ashamed. All of us have forgotten that we need to confess our sins and repent. All of us have forgotten that the point of this whole enterprise called “Church” is to spread the good news so that people, not just the people we want, but people come to know Jesus Christ and are saved in his name. It is not important who he chooses, but that we accept the one he chooses, especially if he chooses us.

          Jesus Christ responded to the rejection by calling his disciples and spreading them all over the area around Nazareth. There is no victim in Christ who is the Eternal Victim. Jesus Christ calls all of us to do something to advance the fact that he broke into history to call us to repentance, confession, forgiveness, and salvation. He also calls us to take nothing with us, but to rely upon that which he supplies. Do you have a good voice? Then why aren’t you singing for the Lord? Are you good at organizing? Then why aren’t you organizing door to door wellness checks of the neighborhood for the Lord? Are you a good teacher? Then why aren’t you learning and teaching what God wants us to know? Are you a good leader? Then why aren’t you in the process to become a pastor?

There are many who have gone before you who were rejected by people who should have accepted the fact that you have gifts given by God. Neff lived in his Bubble House until he died and now in the era of renewed interest in sustainability, his idea is getting a second look. So, what about you? If you are not using the talents God gave you because someone in your life has told you that it is not your place, then you need to reevaluate. You need to change your routine. You need to get up, get out, get talking, get moving, get shaking, get planning, get making, and get at it, because the Lord has something for you to do and you must do it. Amen.


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