Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are building foundations today. Enjoy the sermon and let me know what you think? It would be great if you could forward this link to someone you know to spread the ‘Word’
Blessings to you as we fast approach the Advent season.
Sermon No 72
The Cornerstone: A Foundation for Eternal Life
Last after Trinity
A sermon preached by Roger Laing (Parish Evangelist) on Sunday 28th October 2018 at the 8 & 10 am Eucharist Services at St. Paulinus Church, Crayford, Kent. (Based on Isaiah 28:14-16, Ephesians 2:19-end, John 15:17-end))
May I speak, and may you hear in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Tuesday I attended a celebration service for the emergency services in a church, close to Victoria in central London. It was a great service full of inspiration. Present were Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolis, and various other esteemed hierarchy from the Fire and Ambulance services.
The content of the service included testimonies from several men and women from all three emergency services and music was provided by Hill Song, one of the leading worship bands of our age. But I suppose the highlight for me was the key note speaker for the evening a man by the name of Reverend Canon J John.
For those that don’t know him then do look him up on You Tube. He is a passionate, able, articulate and inspirational preacher…. a bit like me! But seriously he is one of those guys that can fill stadiums, just like the late great Billy Graham and has a God given talent for being able to add humour to his speaking, unlike me!
Now J.Johns message for the evening was essentially all about ‘praying, caring, and sharing,’ which I suppose is not a bad starting point for any Christian.
But before we can really get to that, we need to have something solid on which to base our faith upon. For how can we actually really do prayer, care and share as Christians without making sure that Jesus is right at the centre of all that we do?
So, it is with that thought that I feel today I needed to talk about ‘foundations’ and ‘building stuff.’ And coincidentally these just happens to be themes in our readings from both Isaiah and from Ephesians.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have always been fascinated with buildings and structures, even from a young age I would find solace at old ruins, imagining what the building would have been like in its hey-day, whether it was an old abbey or a village cinema. And together with another fascination of mine, namely time-travel, driven by my other favourite subject Dr Who, I still dream of being able to transport myself back in time to when these buildings were being truly lived. Does any one else feel like that or am I just weird?
And because of this early exposure to ruined buildings it was therefore no wonder that when I left school at sixteen I became a labourer on what was then called a Youth Training Scheme. Not that I had a lot of choice I may add, as I didn’t leave school with any qualifications of note! I think I was more interested in going out drinking and smoking at the time!
But I do recall that I was happy in my work, I still remember that feeling of being a young man of sixteen going off to work on the top deck of the bus smoking a fag, wearing my donkey jacket and hard hat. I must have looked a bit like that man from ‘The Village People’ minus the big moustache as I swaggered up the road to the bus-stop!
But it was during this time that I learnt the art of laying bricks in the English, Flemish and Stretcher bonds and being pleased how I could construct walls that didn’t fall down, and the more bricks that were used the stronger the structure became.
I then later I went on to join the Royal Engineers where I was further taught how to build other structures and bridges and then ironically blow them up again!
But I learnt during those days, that vital to any construction work, there would always be an aspect from where the project gained its strength. In arch work it would be the ‘key stone’ and in the case of brick or stone walling it would be what is called the ‘cornerstone,’ or sometimes referred to as the foundation or setting stone.
And its importance in the wall cannot be underestimated, because all the other stones or bricks are set in reference to that stone. As such, the foundation stone will always determine the position of the entire structure. Indeed, you will probably have seen such stones in prominent buildings inscribed with dates of construction and maybe even the architect’s name?
But this sense of importance that buildings project and the way in which they stimulate our minds are not something new to our modern era, for in biblical times too they were just as important.Think back to the temple of King Solomon which was built solely to house the Ark of the Covenant and to worship God Himself on earth. The power and authority that the building commanded throughout Israel was beyond compare, with Jews from around the country making pilgrimage just to pay homage to the temple and what it contained. Even today the remnant of the western wall of the temple in the City of Jerusalem, is the most revered structure in the whole of Judaism.
Our Old Testament reading today from that most esteemed prophet Isaiah, lays the foundation, metaphorically speaking, for today’s message, as God says, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16).
Of course, the stone alludes to the coming of Jesus some seven hundred years later, and it is important to think on the cornerstone in this prophetic sense. For in so doing we remember as Jesus was questioned by the Sanhedrin after He turned over the tables in the Temple, Jesus says to the Jewish elders, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) Jesus was not referring to the building in terms of its reconstruction, He was of course talking about His own resurrection.
Now as I prepared for this talk this morning, I was drawn to the image of that cornerstone, and sometimes as I am thinking about what I might talk about in a sermon I draw images that come to my mind. And strangely, the only image that I drew for today was that of a cornerstone. So, I sort of had an idea that this is what I should be talking about!
In addition, it came as no surprise either, that when I attended the event on Tuesday, the first worship song sang by Hillsong was called, guess what? ‘Cornerstone’! Further confirmation if ever I needed it.
So, when |I got home that night, I looked at the lyrics and what was repeated throughout the song are these words, ‘Christ alone, Cornerstone. Weak made strong in the Saviours love, He is Lord, Lord of all’ (Cornerstone, Hillsong Worship).
And this apparent paradox is so true if we think about it, we are all weak, but when we make that connection with Jesus, and he lays that foundation of faith in us, our weakness does actually become our strength.
And He commands us to use that divine love and to love one another. Infact the first sentence of our gospel reading says just that, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17) Jesus wants us to take his love and pass it on to others, to share Himself with others that we might meet.
And we can do this because when Jesus places that first foundation stone in us, He is actually laying the foundation of a temple of love. For if God is love and He is dwelling in us, we in turn become reflective of that very same nature of love.
Pauls letter to the Ephesians expands on this through those verses we heard this morning. And it is a good picture to visualise, in that we become a temple of love, not just on our own, but with all the other Christians that are both living, and those that have gone before. We become part of a shared history of all Christians with Jesus right at its centre.
And when we become part of this new temple of God with Jesus as the ‘Chief Cornerstone’, in addition to being stronger together, we are all treated equally with those that form that building, so no one is greater than the other, again think back to the image of the wall, and how each and every brick has a part to play in forming that bond in keeping the structure strong, no brick is more necessary than another. They are all vital and all equal at the same time.
Now I currently work at parliament and if anyone has been to the see the Speaker’s ceremony, you will hear a police officer stand in Central Lobby and shout ‘Hats off Strangers’ as the Speaker, the Rt Honourable John Bercow enters, and in so doing, those wearing hats remove their head dress and bow to the Mace representing the Speakers authority.
But the point about this in the context of our Christian building, is that in our faith there will be no ‘strangers’ or ‘foreigners,’ we will be as Paul puts it, ‘fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19) we will be all equal and there will be no requirement to doff our caps, well perhaps we might still want to bow to Jesus I suppose!
In our Church, Bishop James our diocesan bishop is no greater than the person who dusts the pews or mops the floor. The preacher is no greater than the organist, although admittedly Nick is certainly better at playing the organ than me, and neither are the Sunday school teachers any greater than any one of you sat here today. We are all equal bricks in that building, that form what we call the Church.
There is a song that you may know, based on the parable of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 7: 24-27) I don’t know if you know it?
It’s called, ‘The wise man built his house upon the rock,’ I think you might hear it still on a Thursday morning here during Toddlers worship (hand demonstration of song), and those words are true for all of us, to build our lives on sure and strong foundations, to build them with Jesus as that cornerstone to provide strength, direction and power to all we do.
As a teenager I was in the scouts, just a few years ago now! and I remember we needed a new scout hut, so we launched an appeal and we called it ‘buy a brick’ and our appeal concentrated the minds not on the end-product necessarily, but to appeal to people to think small, to something that was achievable, in terms of simply just one brick. And over time, brick by brick the fund became bigger and ultimately, we had enough bricks to build our new hut.
That hut is still standing today and that is what I would like you to think about this morning, building this church here, not with bricks or stones but with people, we are the bricks that make the church, and just one brick could make all the difference in keeping our church together?
Brothers and Sisters, we are working here at St Paulinus towards a shared vision for the Church, and my prayer is that we can form something new, something strong, something attractive and something adventurous that will build up a Church for future generations here in Crayford. The house of God is stronger than anything else, for it is constructed with people made in the image of God, including the saints that have gone before and we are filled with God’s Spirit and have become a ‘dwelling place’ for Him. (Ephesians 2:22)
So, when you picture that imaginary wall with bricks missing, why not ask Fr Paul the local architect here on site in his site office, to slot you into a gap in that wall and take your strength from Jesus the ‘Chief Cornerstone.’