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Christ Is Our Cornerstone

April 6, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 20:14–20:18

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 5
Christ Is Our Cornerstone

But when the vintners saw him they conspired together and said, 'This is the heir! Let us kill him, then the inheritance will be ours!' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those vintners and give the vineyard to others.'" When they heard this they said: "God forbid!" But he looked straight at them and said, "What then is the meaning of this Scripture, 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone?' Everyone who falls on that stone will be crushed, but the one on whom it should fall will be ground to powder." (Luke 20:14-18)

The first time a person murders he is afraid, the second time not so much until soon he begins to enjoy it, need it, justify it and finally to consider it a divine right: for he has now, in his own mind, become God!

It is true with all sin, isn’t it? Each lie, each theft, each descent into internet porn, becomes easier than the last until the conscience is calloused. That’s how it was with the vintners in the Lord’s parable, and that is how it is with us.

What began for them as greed and violence graduated to full blown murder; but God is still God and the avenger of all such things: both in the parable and in real time! Remember that next time you are tempted to do wrong and, as our Gradual exhorts “Fix your eyes upon Jesus” instead. Wash your robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb then the inheritance will rightfully be yours, then the angels of God will rejoice over you!

We learn from this parable that sin has painful consequences. It draws God’s judgment, it cuts us off from the source of our life. We become like a Christmas tree in the stand. We look all perky, pretty and green; all decked out with beautiful ornamentation. We put a smile on people’s faces and draw their admiration. We drink water from the Christmas tree stand like there is no tomorrow. Like we are still alive. But Beloved that tree, for all its glowing beauty, is dead! Cut off from the source of its life and it will soon dry up and be thrown into the fire, so will everyone who does not repent. (Luke 13:4)

But sin has temporal consequences, too. In plain English sin makes us stupid. Irrational! Myopic. So that we are able to see things that are close by, but positively blind to what tomorrow will hold. But the problem with the: “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” line of reasoning is that we don’t die! But live many tomorrows with the burning consequences of yesterday’s sin.

What possessed these vintners to think that they could assault the owner’s emissaries, and kill his beloved son and that the vineyard would then become theirs? Only insanity! The insanity of sin that seems to be the daily bread of culture today. And so hear this word from first century Ephesian liturgy: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)

On the one hand, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “the news from France is very bad.” But there is another side to the parable that will make us strong, and grant us the blessings of God Almighty: here in time and there in eternity. Let us hear it now!

First there is the fact that the parable takes place in a vineyard. In the Old Testament vineyard is code for Israel, the favored people of God. The vineyard was planted by God and hedged about with his grace, mercy and peace. It was an oasis in the desert of life, and foretaste of the feast to come.

In the New Testament the vineyard is the church where, in the words of Amos the Prophet, “the mountains … drip sweet wine, and all the hills … flow with it.” (Amos 9:13) It is the place where wine, which is Scripture’s chief symbol of gladness, is transformed into the precious blood of Christ by which we obtain, “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting!”

But the news gets even better as Jesus “mixes his metaphors” in today’s parable. The “vineyard” is also the “temple” in which the baptized are living stones with Jesus the chief cornerstone.

Now it was the vocation of the cornerstone in ancient architecture to support the entire edifice and hold it together. It was strategically placed so that each succeeding stone rested on it, and was held in place by it. It bore the weight of all: Jesus is that stone! Laid by God precious, tried and true, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. (Is. 28:16)

But he is also the stone that the builders rejected: they always do. The builders of today’s world have rejected Jesus outright, denied him, defenestrated him; and will only rest when his memory is wiped from the face of the earth.

But the ecclesiastical builders of the day are no better. Those who pander to the public like glitzy strumpets; who bend over backwards to show the world how cool, relevant and regular they can be (with their skinny jeans). But there is nothing regular about Jesus.

Nor is it this “cool Jesus” whom the church worships, or in whose sufferings she Eucharistically communes this Day!

But it is the crucified, risen and exalted Jesus instead. The King of kings and Lord of lords for whom we, like St. Paul, have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish. All so that we might know him, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own founded on the “former things” of Old Testament sacrificial law; but the New Thing, the New Testament in his blood that we celebrate today! And so let us here and now press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, come to the altar today! Amen.