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March 18, 2016

St. Augustine said that when you sing you pray twice. The lyrics to one of my favorite praise songs, Cornerstone,[1] by Hillsong, came to mind as I meditated on this week’s Scripture readings.[2] The song starts out like this: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” The refrain is “Christ alone; cornerstone. Weak made strong; in the Savior’s love through the storm, He is Lord. Lord of all.” The lyrics also refer to Jesus as the anchor—he is always there, unchanging—he went to the cross without wavering, because of his love for us.

The lyrics echo Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The first stone that is set in a masonry foundation is the cornerstone, or foundation stone. All other stones are set in reference to it. Jesus is the cornerstone—the foundation for our faith. Jesus quoted the psalmist in last week’s gospel, and commented that “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces.”(Luke 20:17-18). He was telling the religious leaders that he is the cornerstone, and ignoring him is risky. They got the message.

Jesus also predicted that he would be rejected by the religious leaders and put to death in his telling of the parable of the wicked tenants (Luke 20: 9-18). This week’s gospel reading is the account of Jesus living that prediction. Also referred to as “The Passion,” the twenty-third chapter of Luke recounts the “rough justice” of those two days: his arrest on trumped up charges of treason, his “trials” before Pontius Pilate and Herod, the beatings, and his crucifixion.

Jesus stayed the course for us. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 8). In the sixth hour that he was on the cross, “darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour . . . and the curtain of the temple was torn in two,” signifying that the barrier between God and man was removed. The presence of God, previously only accessible to the high priests in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, is now accessible to us all.   In the words of the song, his grace is there for us, “through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.”

The servant that Isaiah references in Chapters 52-53 was Israel in the context of the times, but it also foreshadowed Jesus, and explains that “by his wounds” we are healed. There may be many reasons why God required Jesus to pay forward the sins of the world. The reason that my puny human brain can understand is that Jesus went to the cross for you and for me because justice required it. It was God’s plan for salvation. As a just, as well as a loving God, there was no better and loving solution to sin in the world. We need justice as well as love.  Maybe because I am an attorney, I used a diagram of scales, anchored in the center by the cross, to teach this concept to my junior high Sunday School class many years ago. Christ is in the center; love is on one side, balanced by justice on the other. Christ paid for our sins with his blood. To quote Bible teacher, Dr. Bill Creasy, “Either Christ pays or we pay.” If we don’t accept Christ, then we pay the penalty—eternal separation from God.

God is real.[3] Fall on him, tell him that you’re sorry, and be washed clean by Christ’s blood—evidence of his willingness to go the distance for you. Bask in his love and grace. Be directed by his words, and start walking the path that he has chosen for you. Remember, that he is the cornerstone, the foundation of our faith. You can listen to Hillsong performing the song, Cornerstone, here:

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] It is a new version of an Edward Mote (1797-1874) hymn called The Solid Rock.

[2] The Scripture texts for Palm Sunday, the Sunday of the Passion, are Psalm 118:19-29; Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56.

[3] “I, and I alone am God; no other god is real” (Deuteronomy 32:39Good News Translation).c

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