This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’
(Acts 4:11 NRSV)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
(John 10:11 NRSV)
The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone – the cornerstone of what?
Building methods have changed considerably over the centuries; and nothing more than in recent times. These days if you want to put up a building you choose your method according to the size of the building. If it’s a house, you make sure that there is a good concrete raft for the structure to stand on. If it’s a larger building, you erect a frame of rolled steel joists and clad these with bricks, or stones, or even steel, aluminium or plastic.
In the first instance it is the concrete raft which supports the weight of the building. In the latter it is the steel frame, usually anchored in concrete which does the job.
But up until the 20th century your options were more constrained.
Look at any pre-20th Century English church. One of the most common architectural features is that it depends on keystones for its structural integrity. Keystones are the tapered blocks at the head of all the arches which stop the whole structure from collapsing. They lock the other stones into place and transfer the weight down the columns to the foundations.
Similarly, in times gone by, large buildings depended on cornerstones. Cornerstones do what it says on the tin. They are substantial stones placed at the corners of large buildings which serve to support the weight of the structure and to provide the point of reference for all the other stones in the structure.
If Jesus is the corner stone of the church, he is supporting a very great weight indeed.
And yet this is exactly the way in which the early church viewed him. Without Christ the Church is utterly without support, and will collapse. Without Christ, the Church has no point of reference against which to define its purpose.
Whatever does that mean?
Well, it means that the church is not a club for like-minded people; nor is it a place where we come just to feel better because we believe in God.
What it does mean is that the Church, local, world-wide and universal, draws its strength and its entire purpose from the reality of the Son of God, and all that he came to do. He is her cornerstone, her one point of reference.
The Church in every age is the embodiment of the purposes of God in Christ; or at least we should be.
And so we ask again: whatever does that mean? To put it plainly: whatever Jesus was, the Church should seek to be in our time and place.
Jesus described himself as the good shepherd, meaning that there was nothing that he would not do for his flock: including dying for them – for us. As the body of Christ in our time and place – tough though it seems – we need to be prepared to follow Christ’s example. That is the concept of agapé; the self-giving love exemplified by Christ.
Many were drawn to Jesus by his teaching, his healing and his example of humility. The Church of today must continue his teaching and, though we may lack his miraculous powers, there is much we can do to offer healing to each other and those around us.
Never underestimate the healing power of a kind word or a smile of welcome. And, in the name of Christ’s humility, there is an immense amount that we could do to be genuinely welcoming of others into our church communities – it’s a role which is not just for the welcome team but for the whole church family.
We are greatly blessed that, in his mission of salvation, Jesus held absolutely nothing back in his care for us. Our vocation, our calling, is to continue that mission – to care for the flock and to reach out for the lost sheep in the name of Jesus.
We need to worship, we need to proclaim, we need to support, we need to evangelise, we need to teach and nurture, we need to give and to forgive, and we need to care – in the name of Jesus our Lord.
For there is no other name in which we dare do this; no other name which is worthy; only Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of our faith.