March 16, 2020

Jesus is the cornerstone

Passage: Mark 12:1-12
Service Type:
Opening Prayer – A prayer of St Augustine from the ELW hymnal:
O loving God, to turn away from you is to fall, to turn toward you is to rise, and to stand before you is to abide forever. Grant us, dear God, in all our duties your help; in all our uncertainties your guidance; in all our dangers your protection; and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our text for yesterday was Mark 12:1-12.
Then Jesus began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a
vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son.
Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”?’
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
It’s a challenging story – especially if we ask ourselves how we might be the wicked tenants, rather than the more comfortable placement of being innocent bystanders.
But what struck me in this particular moment is the quotation Jesus takes from Psalm 118 – the twist in the parable. The tenants – and the scribes and Pharisees know Jesus is talking about them here – have rejected the son. But that son, Jesus says, is the cornerstone.
That’s the key to this lesson. Jesus is the cornerstone. The stone without which the whole structure falls. The unmoving center which supports God’s people – then and now and forever.
Which is a good thing for us to remember right now, when so many of the structures around us – even gathering together as church! – are buckling. We hope this is merely a pause – that at some point, sooner rather than later, things will get back to “normal.” Churches and schools will re-open, folks will go back to work, sports and concerts and the other things we love to do together will resume. The economy will turn back up. All will be well.
But we know that for some, that upturn will come too late. Jobs will be lost; businesses will close; homes will be lost. We know some will die from this virus, and for their loved ones, life will never be the same.
What will be the same is God’s steadfast love. Whatever struggles we face in the coming weeks, Jesus is right here with us. Jesus holds us when we feel lonely and afraid; Jesus holds us when we are concerned about the income that sustains our livelihood; Jesus holds us when we are sick or caring for loved ones who are sick. Jesus holds us and does not let us down. Jesus is the cornerstone – the strong support at the center of our lives will hold us up and keep us going.
The hymn My Hope is Built on Nothing Less is based on this lesson. I’ll close with these words from the hymn; think of it at the Hymn of the Day. And let these words remind us that we stand solidly on the firm foundation which is the love of Jesus Christ our Savior.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, his covenant, his blood sustain me in the raging flood;
when all supports are washed away, he then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
When he shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in him be found,
clothed in his righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.