The Stone the Builders RejectedFr. Barnabas Powell
It’s simply unavoidable. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” So true! You see, the Christian Faith isn’t merely a set of moral teachings. All religious systems have that, and most of them are fairly similar. The Christian Faith isn’t merely the cultural tradition of this or that people-group, though it certainly has become that for many. No. The Christian Faith centers on the Person of Jesus Christ and the Christian claim that He is God in the Flesh.
Now, I know this is inconvenient in our “sophisticated” age of radical egalitarianism. And I know it isn’t very “politically correct” to say, but the Christian Faith, if true, isn’t merely one of many religions; it is the Faith for all humanity. The Christian message simply doesn’t allow for anything less and anything else. If it is true that God has taken His flesh from one of our own, then that message alone is absolutely vital information for every man, woman, boy, and girl who has ever lived! Huge implications, here, dear one, and (if we are going to be honest) unavoidable!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 20:9-18:
The Lord said this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “God forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’? Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on anyone it will crush him.”
You see, the Lord makes it clear that if humanity rejects the “heir” the Son, they condemn themselves! And the Lord’s audience understood exactly what He was saying to them. That’s why they responded “God forbid!” They understood that what was at stake in rejecting the Son was their own destruction. On a practical matter, it became just so in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the Jewish Temple and the city of Jerusalem. On that day Judaism as a religion with a temple and priests and temple worship ceased to this very day! Actions have consequences!
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He reminds them and us of that powerful promise made in the Psalms in Psalm 118:22-24: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Sound familiar? It should. It’s in our liturgies! And He goes on to add the final warning, the final revelation of what is simply true: “Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on anyone it will crush him.” This is NOT A THREAT. It is the Lord being honest about reality!
Today, the Christian Faith is meant for everyone, because if it isn’t then it is useless for everyone. As we approach with fear and trembling the commemoration of the Lord’s Nativity when God Himself stepped into His creation to set it right again, let us abandon the foolish notion that the Christian Faith is somehow akin to liking blue while some of my friends like orange. It’s time for we who say we follow Christ to wake up to the wonderful mystery of God become Flesh for us and cast ourselves on the “stone” now so we won’t be trapped under it then! Wisdom demands that we be Orthodox on Purpose!
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