We are a year and half into a global pandemic. The entire globe has been impacted by this virus. Things are different than they were a year and half ago. All of us have had to adjust, adapt, and alter schedules, routines, plans, expectations, and how we understand the world. Most of us, if we are honest, lived this last year and half somewhere between faith and fear, confidence and caution, anxiety and relief.
Now it seems we are coming through the other side; slowly, cautiously, moving toward what life used to be like, yet knowing it will never be the same. Now is the time we rebuild; put things back together in a way that reflects the lessons learned, priorities identified, and awareness and wisdom gained over the last year and a half. Now is the time to consider what we do and how we can do it better for God, others, and ourselves.
Jesus uses this story to symbolize God replacing arrogant, selfish religious leaders with his appointed leader (Jesus), who would be the starting point of a new work of God (Isa 28:14–17; Zech 10:3–5): God uses the stone that the builders rejected (Jesus) to begin a new work. Jesus’ parable of the tenants depicts how God is beginning a new work by entrusting his kingdom to new “tenants” (Matt 21:42–43). In other words: the vineyard is the nation of Israel - the people of God; the owner is God. The cultivators are the religious leaders. The messengers who were sent are the prophets sent by God and often rejected and killed. The son who came last is, of course, Jeusus - the cornerstone.
The cornerstone, sometimes interpreted as the capstone, was considered the most important stone. It was the one stone that held everything else in place. It was the one stone that kept just enough pressure and tension on everything else that the entire structure held together. The cornerstone was often the first stone placed - the foundational corner of the entire structure. It determined the length, height, and width of the structure. The capstone was often the final yet most important piece, without it, the structure would not stand. So either way you look at it, without that stone, nothing would stand. Nothing would last.
It is pretty clear then, that Jesus was and is that stone; the one we are to build our foundation on; the one that determines and defines our meaning and purpose, and the one that holds everything else together. We can have the biggest and best of everything here at Grace, but if we don’t model, follow, teach, and preach Jesus, we won’t stand; we will fall apart, slowly erode, or collapse. We can have the best ministries, programs, classes, workshops, special events, and guest speakers; be on tv for all that we do, but if we don’t begin and end with Jesus, we have nothing.
Church I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Yet, one thing remains. We know it, but we rarely live it out fully and completely. We know it but we are afraid of what it might mean if we try something new, different, or outside our comfort zone. We know it but seldom do we do the full on trust fall into the arms of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The text speaks to God’s trust in us as the farmhands, workers, and tenants of God’s kingdom. It speaks of God’s patience with us. It is about service, responsibility, privilege, and accountability. All of which is a part of the rebuilding on the cornerstone of Jesus.
As we come through the other side of anything; economic strain, flood, violence, politics, tragedy, uncertainty, and yes, a global pandemic, we can do nothing less than remember who we are in Christ, reimagine what church can and should look like, and rebuild on the model, example, and teaching of Jesus.
Let’s remember and live like we mean it. Let’s reimagine and trust God’s leading. Let’s rebuild and see what the Holy Spirit can do.
I know it can be scary. Maybe that’s how we know it matters. Amen.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine