Searching for Stones

This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;

it has become the cornerstone.”

Basement Cracks

This past week a sermon illustration fell into my lap that I would have preferred to have not had to deal with, but since it happened, I might as well ring out every last metaphor.

The other evening, I went down into my basement to relax after working in the garden for a couple of hours. As most people do, I didn’t smell pleasant after sweating and working in the dirt. But while I was in the basement, I remember thinking – man I smell really bad.

I took a shower, went to bed, and thought nothing else of it.

The next evening, I am hanging out in the basement again and I still smelled the smelly smell that smelled really smelly. And I don’t think it was me. I follow my nose to a corner of the basement, and there I saw it. Water. Water that has seeped out from under the drywalled walls. But not only water, there is dirt down there. Chaska and I pull back the rug that was wet, faced a fan to the corner, and go to bed.

I explain this to Kevin Cluts the next night at noodle night and he graciously cames over that evening to help me do some diagnosing. We find a crack that goes the whole way up the poured concrete wall, that is seeping water and mud, and he helped me come up with a game plan.

While My house built in the 80s does not have a cornerstone, perhaps the corner of a poured basement wall might be a 21st century Ohio equivalent.

Imagine building a house today, pouring concrete walls and seeing a bow or crack soon after it is set. I am not sure what builders do today, but if there is a poorly poured wall, I hope that they tear it out and pour it again. No one wants to buy a new house that has cracked basement walls that let water in.

In the past, when building a house or a building, the cornerstone was the rock that brought walls together. If it wasn’t a stone that would work well in supporting the house, then the builders would discard the stone for a different one that would help build a more stable house. Perhaps not too different than repouring a wall.

The Rejected Stone

Peter in our passage today, is pointing to this discarded stone. The stone might make the house crumble. The rejected stone that could be compared to a large crack in my basement wall that is allowing small amounts of mud into my basement. And Peter says this rejected, cracked stone, is a metaphor for Jesus.

Jesus – not the foundation that keeps everything sturdy. Not the wall that keeps water out. But the stone that gets rejected from the building. The one that all of the “wise” builders would not use.

This is of course metaphorical – we are not literally building a house on top of Jesus. But instead, considering how the way of Jesus is like a stone that gets rejected. Because the way of Jesus is not easy, sturdy, nor does it hold social, economic, political power.

Peter points to Jesus as being the rejected cornerstone in front of all of the rulers and elders and scribes – all of the powerful, authoritative elites in his community. Everyone who likes sturdy stones. Who likes their power to stay in their hands, without the threat of it crumbling down like a poorly built building.

Resurrection is Sedition

At the beginning of the story, Peter and John are thrown in jail by the powerful, for proclaiming a ridiculous claim, “that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead.“

So what – right? Some religious fanatics. Maybe a few people like Ray who are into Zombie Apocalypses. The writer of Acts says 5,000 people are now convinced of this as a result of their preaching. And those with power, were annoyed with this preaching.

The disciples, they are common folk. They have no power. But they declare something that those with power do not want to hear. Jesus has risen – Jesus is Lord. For those in power, this is heresy. This is sedition. This hits a nerve in those who want to maintain power.

Those with power use violence to maintain oppression over those without power. Execution was used as a means to deter people from revolution. If you were a powerful elite that wanted the status quo to continue, the solution to squash the revolution was to kill the revolutionary leader. When you kill the leader, you put fear into the hearts of the followers.

But what the disciples were declaring was that the mechanism that was used to stop revolutions – execution, did not work. Jesus was risen. Declaring that Jesus is risen and is Lord, and that you too will be resurrected, was a rejection of those with power. The execution will not stop the movement. And here we have thousands of common people, the people that the powerful want to control via violence and execution, no longer controllable. The spirit of Christ was alive.

So when Peter and John were going around proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection of the dead, the temple guard came and seized them and threw them in jail.


The next day, Peter and John are then questioned by the powerful, in a kind of trial. They were being judged, because of their dangerous proclamations.

Willie Jennings, an author of the Belief Act commentary, says that in this situation you have two groups. You have the judges and the judged. The judges are those with power, educated, the social elites who are able to navigate and even profit off of the status quo. Off of the sturdy cornerstones. These are the people who like to take a legal view of things because they need it to sustain their power – to sustain the wealth. To sustain their status.

And then you have the judged. John and Peter whose lives took twists and turns that they can not anticipate, cannot control. Jennings says that the judged are the common folk. Those who don’t have money. They don’t have decision making power. Unlike the judges, they are swept along in the stream of reality, unable to control their situation.

The powerful elites, the judges, like judging these folks. Why can’t they control their situation? Make enough money and work hard. Develop a 401K ? Buy a house? Pay off their student loan debt. Pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Where Jesus’s Lordship is different from the judges – those with powers that control, is that Jesus jumps into the stream of the common folk. The Rift ralf. The marginalized. He goes out ahead of them. Jennings writes that “Jesus never sought to escape the place of judgment, but to seize it.” And that led to his crucifixion.

And Peter says to the judges, “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”

Peter is saying to the judges, that the world that you have built – that sustains your power and wealth, and maintains the poverty and pain of the common folk, is not my cornerstone.

The rejected cornerstone does not look like the cornerstones that the powerful want to see. It is not the perfectly square stone that supports social structures forever. It has fissures and cracks. It will not support those with power. Peter is saying that his cornerstone is the Lordship of Jesus – who stands with the judged. The common folk. The marginalized.

The Lordship of Jesus defied the tool of execution, that was supposed to silence the revolution, through rising from the dead. And that spirit is within us – alive and well. This is where we build from. The rejected stone.

Where is the Rejected Stone Today? Earth Day

As I have been writing this sermon, I have been thinking about how from time to time the church needs to find the cornerstones that the powerful have rejected. That the church itself has ejected, and build from there. Find the stones with all of the cracks and fissures. The things that have been disregarded. The people who have been left behind and forgotten. Those who have been judged and with whom Jesus stands with.

Because this week we celebrate Earth Day, I would like to consider the rejected cornerstone where Jesus stands Judged with. The earth.

What does it look like to build upon the rejected cornerstone of our planet? To stand judged with Jesus and our Planet.

I know many of you are doing this work. The other week when Sarah Augustine was here, I can recall several conversations with folks that struggled with hearing her message that we will not individually solve the Climate crisis through our good actions. That technology, solar panels, electric cars, will not save us. That our green practices still require resource extraction that destroys people’s lives and the environment.

What inspired me about her message, is that Sarah was working on living on a different cornerstone. Not one that wished to save the planet, but one that was starting to imagine what it would mean to live faithfully on this planet, 100 years from now, and start imagining that reality now. A different Cornerstone.

Sheri Hostetler, who co-wrote with Sarah Augustine the book “So we and our Children may Live” writes that we don’t like trying to imagine these new realities because we prefer the security and certainty that we experience now. I can surely relate to this. I want my family to survive right now. I want Flora to have a flourishing 100 years on this planet.

But Hostetler writes this challenge to all of us. That in starting to imagine a new cornerstone, we would have to start acknowledging that our current reality is not secure and certain. That it is not sustainable. It is terrifying to start thinking that the future is not certain and secure, despite all of the wealth creation, investing and purchasing we do. That our survival on our mistreated planet is in a very precarious position.

This is the reality that young people are growing up in today. And it makes us all incredibly anxious.

Unfortunately, security and permanence are illusions. They are the cornerstones that we have relied on up until this point. We know they are illusions deep down. When the stock market crashes, the cancer diagnosis is shared, when the car accident happens. Hostetler writes, “Nothing is Guaranteed to Us.” But she pairs with that a piece of hope – “All is a gift.”

All is a gift. Life is a gift. A posture of gratitude towards the divine. This is the cornerstone, but it comes with cracks in it, like my basement wall. Those cracks are the lack of guarantees. This rejected cornerstone has no guarantees. It’s a damaged cornerstone that recognizes that no cornerstones last forever. That the structures that we have in place that make the powerful powerful and the poor and common marginalized, cannot sustain our lives and our planet.

This is what Peter is pointing out to the powerful judges, when he exclaims that Jesus is the stone they rejected – they have rejected the stone that lets go of the guarantees of power, security and certainty. Power, security and certainty that the common folks like Peter could not have experienced. Peter instead relies on the cracked and damaged cornerstone of Jesus, where new worlds where all of creation can thrive can be imagined. Peter is encouraging the powerful to let go of their stones.

If we too can recognize that the cornerstones that promise security and premance will not save you, we can begin to do that dangerous imagining of a different way of relating to our planet and to each other. An imagining that recognizes that life is a gift without guarantees. – And thank God this space of imagining and gratitude is where Christ is, ready to help us bloom out of the mud that is in the cracks and fissures of this stone. This is Christ’s cornerstone. Can we creatively live and imagine a future with each other and our planet from this cornerstone?

Rifted Rock

Our hymn of response is the old classic hymn, In the Rifted Rock. As we sing, imagine for a moment letting go of the securities and certainties that you rely on, and rest in the rifted, cracked, rock where Jesus resides, ready to imagine a different future with us all.