Sermon April 25
1 John 3:16-24
Peter is so clear in our first reading! The high priests ask how the man has been healed, and Peter puts it squarely and clearly as a healing by the power of Jesus. He doesn’t leave it there – ‘the Jesus you crucified’, he says. Not the Jesus the Romans crucified, but the Jews. Peter says it like it is. Then he reminds them that Jesus didn’t stay crucified, he rose from the dead! Jesus won that round! Peter then tells them that this same Jesus is the one that you priests, the builders, rejected. And now another turn around – he has become the cornerstone!
Have you ever felt rejected?
I know I have. It’s all too common. For me it was at school, when teams were being picked for games, and the captains of the teams chose the more physically able ones first. I was always last. They were choosing people that fit a set of criteria, that is, being decent at sport. The more useless ones like me were always picked last. Actually I would have been quite happy not to be picked at all, to go to the library and read, but that wasn’t an option!
Many people are rejected by friends and family, because they don’t fit someone else’s criteria of how they should be. This is so much more hurtful than not being chosen for games. We should be able to depend on our family to love us no matter what, to always pick us, to never reject us, but sadly for so many people that is not the case.
Many young people these days are questioning their sexuality and/or their gender, and it seems from what I hear that the ones who face rejection are not being rejected by their peer group, who are more accepting, but by their own family, who have pre-conceived notions of how they should be.
Jesus felt this rejection too. We can bring our sense of rejection to Jesus in prayer, knowing that he empathises with it, and walks this path with us.
We also have a responsibility as Christians, as slaves of Christ, to not reject others, no matter how they don’t fit into our picture of how they should be.
Judgmentalism is a form of rejection. This is something we must all be on guard against. It’s not enough to say we love God, but not act. Our reading from John’s 1st letter lays it out.
‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?’
Many people in our community are lacking basic skills to manage. Maybe they spend their money unwisely, and have no resources for what is important. Or maybe they don’t have the skill-set to do what needs to be done. I have heard criticism recently of those who can’t manage on a benefit. ‘You should be able to manage’, the critics say. ‘I can manage on my benefit’, they say smugly, ‘why can’t you?’ they say judgmentally. Those of us that can manage have skills and strategies that work. Maybe instead of criticising we should be sharing what we have, those skills and strategies with those who need them. This is a much better way of growing God’s kingdom than just criticising.
We can be good at sharing the world’s goods, like John says, with others. We give food
to the food bank, money to various charities, time to programmes like kids’ breakfasts, but is it done out of a joyful heart of giving? Are we begrudging our time and effort because ‘they should be able to manage on the benefit?’
Love one another, Jesus says. This is not always easy!
Let’s look again at the rejected stone. The scripture quoted by Peter in Acts is from Ps 118, verse 22, and it crops up several times in Christian arguments. It would have been well-known to the high priests Peter was addressing.
Imagine you are building a house, and one piece of stone is not good at all, it just has to go on the scrap pile. No good. Worthless. But then another builder comes along and sees something about that stone that you have missed, and says, I think we can use this one. I fact, this is the most important one to hold the whole structure together!
This is the analogy that is used here. The high priests rejected Jesus. They gave him no place in the building, not even a small space in the hierarchy. As for being recognised as the Messiah, no way! But God had greater plans for Jesus and knew what He really was and is.
Christ is the cornerstone, the boundary post, the edge. The bottom layer on which all else rests.
We too can be that cornerstone. We may feel rejected, as if we have no qualities that anyone wants to recognise or use. But God sees beyond what humans see, and has a place for all of us.
These days we don’t build in stone much, but I imagine a cornerstone to be a marker, that says, this building starts and stops here. It is like a stake in the ground, a boundary post Are you a cornerstone? Do you make a stand on what is Godly and what isn’t, and keep your position? You can be a cornerstone for your friends, family and community by
being firm and dependable. People come to recognise you as being consistent, loving, Jesus-followers if you don’t change your opinion with every latest thing and idea that comes up on Facebook, and always act like a Christ-follower!
What else is a cornerstone? it’s the bottom stone of the corner, and other stones meet at it, and are built up upon it. Others are supported by its weight and heft.
There are times when you will need to be a cornerstone for people. Being a mum means I seem to do that a lot at times! Maybe too you will have times to rely on someone else to be your cornerstone. As we recognise Christ in others we can allow them to minister to us too.
Love is the antidote to rejection. If only everyone who was rejected would be loved instead by the ones rejecting them! But in the real world it doesn’t happen that way. Jesus calls us to love, love and love some more. Love everyone! We can help those who are rejected feel loved, we can love those who do the rejecting. Jesus calls us to love everyone, not just the needy or the victims, not just the rejected and the worthy. If we can truly love even the ones who do the rejecting, the ones who abuse and hurt, the evil-doers in our world, we will be truly doing what God challenges us to do.
Dear friends, this week, may you experiment with loving the unlovely, just as God does! May you be encouraged in your own sense of rejection, that Jesus too was rejected but God had bigger plans for him, and has great plans for you too!