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“The Cornerstone” - Sermon: 10/08/2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sermon Texts: Matthew 21: 33-46  and Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Note: during the actual sermon I will be using an illustration. You might want to watch the recorded sermon on Facebook! 

One of the most often done jobs working self-check at Walmart is verifying a person’s age so that they can purchase either alcohol or any other of hundreds of items regulated by law that only those 18 and older can purchase---things such as Sharpie pens, White-Out, Compressed Air to clean your computer, Acetone, Spray Paint, Windshield Wiper Cleaner that includes Debugger, Fillet Knives, Gumout for your car engine (and the list goes on). We, of the older generation, shake our heads in disbelief. We survived these things without regulation. Sometimes I think common sense is being bred out of humanity! We make new laws in an effort to protect ourselves---from ourselves!

After the very saddening occurrence of the killing of over 50 people and injuring over 500 in Las Vegas last week, the discussion over passing new gun control laws has arisen again. I’m not going to debate the issue today. We all have our thoughts on that issue even as we pray for peace in our communities and God’s comfort to be with all the families and victims.
We have laws to protect our rights---that is well and good. We do need a “code” to live by. God wanted his people, the Israelites, to live as He intended for them to live. They needed a lesson on “how to behave”. Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments found both in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The first four have to do with how we are to behave towards God:
1. Do not worship any other gods.
2. Do not make any idols.
3. Do not misuse the name of God.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy.
First and foremost is our relationship with God. Second is our relationship with each other:
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not lie.
10. Do not covet.

If you do any of these things—and think of #5 as “Do not NOT honor your father and your mother” or “Do not DISHONOR your father and your mother”---if you do any of these things: dishonor, murder, commit adultery, steal, lie covet---you are building a wall between you and the other/others. You’ve closed off a relationship. [illustration] This also holds true for our relationship with God—worshipping other gods, making idols to worship instead, misusing His name, not keeping the Sabbath---we build a wall to keep Him out. Walls are built to keep things in as well as to keep things out.

While it will take time to find out all the information about the shooter in Las Vegas and his intentions---he built a huge wall. He murdered. His actions cost the lives of many including himself and injured, possibly changing forever, the lives of many. 
I’m not going to belabor the point that God saw the need to show us the way to live righteously in His eyes. Here are just a few more thoughts on the subject:
• An 11 year old Jewish boy wrote: “Isn’t that what religion is all about? I think so—to tell you how to behave. God made a Covenant with our people, that’s what we learned the other day in Hebrew School. Moses was given the Ten Commandments, and that’s the biggest time in our history—when that happened. Just because we can’t get all A’s, make a perfect record, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.”
• Moses Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher and influential Torah scholar wrote: “The purpose of the laws of the Torah is to promote compassion, loving-kindness and peace in the world.”
• Psalm 19 says: “The ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.”
The problem became—as the 11 year old boy said---we didn’t make all A’s because we couldn’t. Only Jesus himself could. Of course, we are to keep trying! But we also went too far---making keeping the law an idol in place of God and in place of caring for each other. Even Martin Luther saw that 500 years ago---people could pay indulgences to be forgiven---if you weren’t rich enough then you weren’t forgiven? How compassionate and loving is that? We had to have help understanding the purpose of the law and how to keep it.

Jesus gave us the parable of the wicked tenants. Then he asked a question: “Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?” (Psalm 118:22) [illustration] Here the reference is to Jesus being either the stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner or the wedge-shaped stone placed at the pinnacle of an arch that locked together the ascending stones.
God put Jesus in the place of prominence as we are to put him. Jesus, when asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” replied: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: “Love our neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
 Lejean Mitchell sent me an article from the Presbyterian Outlook magazine this week that I’m going to share with you:
• It asks the question who are we in this parable and right off the bat answers who we are NOT—we are not the landowner (God) and we are not the son (Jesus). The vineyard so lovingly created and entrusted to the tenants, does not belong to us. We don’t own anything on this earth—it’s all on loan, leased to us for a period of time.
• The thing about tenants is this---if they occupy the land long enough they start to think of it as “theirs”. They decide who can live on it and who can’t. They don’t want to give up the land or the harvest and they will do whatever it takes to maintain what isn’t theirs to begin with. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it and one day we will all have to account for how we have tended to His vineyards entrusted to us.
• We often mistreat those God sends to us. Rarely do we heed the message of the prophets, hear the voices telling us what God requires, or welcome the Word of God, especially when we count ourselves among the religious, righteous insiders. Be watchful not to become Pharisees!
• God’s law is to be followed. Jesus came to fulfill the law not abolish it. We are still held accountable when we disobey what God has commanded. The tenants of the parable disregarded the law: they killed, stole, coveted and their disobedience came with consequences.
 Jesus is the cornerstone. [illustration]. Paul wrote as much to the church in Philippi. “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” He goes on to write: “Not that I have already obtained this (knowing Christ) but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  (Philippians 3: 4b-14)

My friends, let us remember the law so that nothing comes between us and God. Let us remember to love God and our neighbors so that the world may be “like the kingdom of heaven”. And let us press on in maturing in our faith and knowing Christ more fully. Amen.