This week I read about an 80 year old woman who safely landed a twin-engine Cessna plane when her 81 year old husband had a heart attack and died at the controls. WOW!!! Their son was on the radio giving her direction and she had taken some flying lessons about 30 years ago. Even so, how amazing is that? Just the challenge of a safe landing is a lot to manage, let alone under those circumstances. It is such an unlikely outcome for the situation.
In Psalm 118 the writer tells us:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This verse refers to an unexpected outcome as well. For Christians, this verse is a way of seeing the ministry of Jesus. We see him as one who was rejected by the leaders and authorities and many others of his day. He was not only cast aside, but put to death in a cruel, humiliating manner. On Good Friday, the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, he certainly was rejected. Those responsible for Jesus’ death thought they had put an end to him and his subversive teachings. But there was an unexpected outcome.
The fact that millions of people around the world will commemorate the crucifixion today shows how wrong they were. In fact, Jesus’ death added to his power and drew attention to his claims. By killing him, those who rejected him, added fire and passion to his movement. They inadvertently fanned the flames of the community he had established. They drew attention to his message. As church forebear Tertullian observed in 197 C.E., “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The stone that the leaders of the day thought they were rejecting became the cornerstone of a tremendous movement which has significantly impacted human history.
This should not surprise us because this is the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He surrounded himself with people that no one thought would amount to much. Yet look what they did. He reached out to those who were considered of little or no value by society, and they became faithful witnesses continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing, comforting, feeding, and forgiving. They were bold in their service and in their invitation to others to find new life in this unlikely fledgling movement.
Many of those who were part of the origins of Christianity were what could be considered “rejects.” And yet they built the church which we have inherited today. And this is still how Christianity works. People who are considered nobodies becoming somebodies through self-giving service to others. That is the heart of the Christian message. Self giving service ennobles the one serving and the one served. It is the one way that each and every person can have access to full humanity and dignity and integrity. Feeling low? Beaten down? Useless? A failure? Do something for someone. Help someone. Volunteer in an organization that is working for good in the community. That is the essence of the Christian movement. That is how the stone that those in power reject becomes the cornerstone of something good, true, purposeful, and lasting.
This day our hearts are heavy as we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet even from that devastating tragedy, good came forth. We are heirs of that legacy. May we continue to work for good in the world whatever our circumstances or however dire the situation, for there is always good that can emerge even where least expected. May we help to build a world where everyone is valued and needed and no one is cast aside. This is the way of Jesus. Amen.