Our Old Testament lesson presents to us the Law sent down from God to Moses, preserved for us in the 20th chapter of Exodus. This Law is the foundation – the cornerstone, if you will – of the religion that is the whole of life for the Hebrew people even to this day.
This Law that is summed up in what we know as the Ten Commandments is sheer gift to the people of God. Their ancestors of many generations had lived in bondage in Egypt; now, they had been freed miraculously from the bondage. The gift of the Law is given to guide their appreciation for the blessing of living and worshipping in freedom – a guide to becoming one with their creator and living in relationship with one another.
Centuries later, we have this allegorical parable from the Gospel of Matthew, which we have read just now, in which Jesus clearly convicts the religious leaders in his audience of failure to accept and follow God’s Law sent down so many centuries ago. As religious leaders, it is their role to guide the people in understanding and following the law. Instead they have misinterpreted and misused the law, abusing their positions of power. They have failed to interpret the Law as a gift that guides the people in becoming one with their creator and living in relationship with one another as God intends. Jesus is speaking to all of us who fail over and over to acknowledge and keep sight of the cornerstone of our faith.
Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus condemns the religious leaders for failing to connect with the Son of Man who has come. His parable indicates Christ’s expectation that they will collude in is earthly death.
Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. The connotations associated with the cornerstone are interesting food for thought, and I think we would all agree that “cornerstone” carries much more of a spiritual metaphorical image than a tangible brick and mortar image. Inscriptions on cornerstones are significant symbols of beginning and preservers of history – some even contain time capsules or relics of saints. There is a wide range of tradition associated with cornerstones.
Cornerstones mark our beginnings. And, we should not forget that cornerstones mark our endings. We lay the cornerstone; we follow the guidelines laid down for our building project – or, we might say, our lives; and, in the end, we return to our beginning – our goal is to keep focused and to return to the cornerstone – the foundation of our faith.
In South Nags Head last week, we decided to ride down to Oregon Inlet to check the progress on the bridge. What a mammoth, unbelievable feat of engineering. Building is taking place from the north shore of the inlet, the south shore of the inlet, and in the middle – the highest section of the high-rise span. It is inconceivable to me how these calculations will come together so that the three sections will meet as intended. The tiniest fraction of an inch of miscalculation will result in three disconnected constructions that go nowhere. How glad we are that God allows us mercy in our miscalculations, when we lose sight of our cornerstone. Even then, God stays connected and guides our reconnection.
Our foundation – our cornerstone engenders our lives. We keep sight of that foundation in order to connect with one another and with all creation as we work toward the perfection of our circle of life. We have to connect with one another.
The monstrous act of evil that gloried in the killing of innocent people in Las Vegas last week was carefully calculated. The murderer was an accountant and a gambler and a calculated killer. And, it is obvious that he had made every effort to disconnect with humanity in the months, or perhaps years, before this strategically engineered travesty. I can imagine that once his life is analyzed from beginning to end, we will find broken human relationships that created this disconnected member of human society.
We can blame the guns; we can blame the police; we can blame the government. We don’t like to blame ourselves for neglecting our own responsibility to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and the evil powers of the world – to turn to Jesus Christ and to put our trust in his grace and love. These are the vows we take when we are baptized in to the Body of Christ.
We are the Church; we are the Body of Christ; it is our purpose to connect – to be connected and to remain connected. It is our purpose to keep sight of our cornerstone – to be vigilant constantly for the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst – and the presence of evil in our midst. We look into the eyes of the people we encounter in the most casual of circumstances; we listen; we tune in to the hurts and the frustrations of the people around us. We all want our voices heard. We don’t necessarily have to have our way at all times, but we want our voices heard in the decision-making process. When voice go unheard, ill will ferments.
It is the gift of God’s guidance, first brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses, that is our cornerstone, leading us to live in relationship with God and with one another. We cannot allow the World’s increasing desire for disconnection to divert our sense of cornerstone – our beginning and our ending quest toward everlasting life where north and south meet at the highest point to become one in Christ. As tenants in the vineyard, we are one body, in union with God and each other with Christ as our cornerstone.