The Chief Cornerstone, Heritage Sunday
John 14:1-14, 1 Peter 2:2-10
Wikipedia defines a cornerstone this way: The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
Over time a cornerstone became a ceremonial masonry stone, or replica, set in a prominent location on the outside of a building, with an inscription on the stone indicating the construction dates of the building and the names of architect, builder and other significant individuals.
I thought it might be interesting to look at a couple of cornerstones and their inscriptions. There is one located at Wesley Seminary on the outer wall of the library which purposefully faces the chapel. It is a quote from Charles Wesley – “United so long the two disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Often we may feel that our faith and our head knowledge are at odds with one another. We may feel if we dare to believe in miracles or in Jesus Christ as the son of God, our head knowledge has to be put on a back burner. But the Wesleys’ welcomed knowledge as a key part of our faith. Uniting the quest for knowledge and our dedication to becoming more like Christ (our vital piety) in our words and actions is at the heart of this quote and what a great place to find it but on the cornerstone of the Wesley Seminary campus library.
Most cornerstones simply note the date of building construction. In our heritage as United Methodists in America, we may find stones that indicate a United Church of the Brethren, or Methodist Episcopal Church as these are some of the fragments that eventually came together to become the United Methodist Church. Here are two important cornerstones for us here at Mayo UMC. We also can see this one from Parkwood UMC as our two congregations were united not long ago.
When we compare our history here at Mayo with the scripture from 1 Peter, we can see that we are not just about bricks and mortar but about the people of God with Christ as our chief cornerstone. While we love and care for this building and the structures around it, we know that the church is not our surroundings but our people. Remember the old poem we taught our children? “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door and see all the people.” Peter reminds Christians that they “…are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9. We have been called out of darkness and set in this place in order to share God’s love in this community. We are not suppose to keep to an exclusive club but to welcome all who wish to worship with us here, and carry that welcome well beyond the boundaries of our walls.
Our greatest work begins when we leave this place. Our witness for the love of Jesus is most keenly noted when we proceed through our daily lives. Living like Christ can be quite a challenge. It was also a challenge for those who were being persecuted to whom Peter sent this letter of encouragement. Peter was reminding the church that Christ had given everything for them because of his unconditional love for each of us.
Our theme for annual conference this year is ‘building bridges; be love.’ How do we do that? How do we build bridges within our community without alienating others? How do we share love in such a way that people recognize us as genuine followers of Christ trying to make the world a little better for our neighbors?
The gospel lesson from John is one I use a lot in funeral services. In fact, I used it just yesterday at the funeral of Sharon Geisler’s father, William Jahnigen. Throughout this passage we hear Jesus’ message of peace in troubled times. This is a message our world is crying out to hear. We too are living in troubled times. When our young people are afraid to go to school for fear of being bullied we are living in troubled times. When we get so busy with our carpooling, work and family lives we do not even notice someone in need and simply ignore him/her we are living in troubled times. When gun violence and bomb threats become the norm in our schools we are living in troubled times. When loneliness is one of our greatest conditions for young and old because of our disconnections within society we are living in troubled times.
Thanks be to God the story does not end there. Thanks be to God that Jesus offers a message of hope to anyone who seeks it – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.’ Nowhere in this message do I see a guarantee of a life of ease. We are pretty much guaranteed to have disappointments and setbacks that make us question why we trust God in the first place. I have a cousin that just miscarried after 3 months. She is grieving very publically. I am often marveled at the comments of others which can do more harm than good. Some have said things like, “God must have needed another angel in heaven” or “give yourself some time, you’ll have another baby.” We can be at a loss for words as to how to comfort someone who is experiencing great trial. That is when we can share the wonderful words of Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” The gospel message of peace, love, compassion beyond our wildest imaginations, and assurance that we have the promise of eternal life is the greatest comfort we can give. Being there for someone, truly listening to their heart’s cry is how we can love our neighbors as ourselves.
I think at times is may be easy for us to forget our calling as Christ’s followers. If Christ is truly the cornerstone of our lives and our church, how does that affect the way we live each day? Sharing our faith can be as simple as taking our jobs seriously and giving our very best to the task at hand. Sharing our faith can be a kind word to someone who never seems to have a kind word for anyone. Sharing our faith can be setting time aside to help serve a meal this week at the Lighthouse Shelter – can you step forward and say ‘yes’ to the calling to help share a meal with others? Vince is preparing a very special dinner so we are definitely giving our best! Sharing our faith can be as simple as attending a very short graduation ceremony this Wednesday at 10 AM for our nursery school graduates! Sharing our faith can be a note in the mail to one of our young people, encouraging them during the last weeks of school. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9.
It is no secret that our world is filled with darkness and troubled waters. The news is so depressing at times I just want to shut it all out of my mind and try to pretend everything is fine. But we as the followers of Christ are called to build a bridge. It may be as simple as a foot bridge across a small stream of sharing a smile, or a fancy suspension bridge across the issue of feeding the hungry or visiting the sick. Many things will discourage us from building those bridges – hatred, prejudice, lack of courage to make a stand, feeling like David in a sea of Goliaths. But our foundation is strong. Our foundation is set on the cornerstone who is Jesus the Christ. We were promised that in this world we would have trouble but to take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus has overcome the troubled waters of this world. Jesus has overcome the troubled waters of death. Jesus has overcome the troubled waters of evil and injustice. We have set our foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. ‘On Christ the solid rock I stand, ALL other ground is sinking sand. ALL other ground is sinking sand.’
I challenge everyone this week to find one way to be the light of Christ to a hurting world. Call someone who needs encouragement. If you are not sure who to call, take a look at our shut-in list and our members in need of prayer. Send a note to one of our college students just home from another tough semester. Thank someone who has had a positive influence on your life. Spend time in prayer thanking God for the gifts given to us that we often take for granted. Love on your family – talk to your teenagers, do a chore before you are even asked. Surprise someone by telling them how much you care about them this week. When our cornerstone is Jesus Christ, our foundation is set and our mission is clear – go and make disciples for Jesus. Amen.