SERMON: The Stone Which the Builders Rejected

Eric Carswell
Wed Mar 26 21:38:11 UTC 1997

The Stone Which the Builders Rejected
by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

        The stone which the builders rejected 
        Has become the chief cornerstone.  
        This is the Lord's doing.  
        And it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:22,23; Mark 12:10-11).

The Lord knows what it is like to be rejected, neglected, or merely
politely tolerated.  In all that He does, He has the long-term happiness of
individual human beings in mind.  There is not one word of revealed truth
that doesn't have this goal ultimately in mind.  Each image, each law, each
rational concept that He has given to us looks to our happiness.  On the
last night of His mortal life, He told His disciples:  "These things I have
spoken to you that My joy might be yours, and that your joy may be full"
(John 15:11).  The sadness of His life is that too often His words have
been merely tolerated, neglected, or outright rejected.  The parable of the
wicked vinedressers was directly addressed to the members of the Lord's
audience who had rejected and perverted the essential truths of the Old
Testament and would soon by crying for His crucifixion.

The vineyard that the man planted represents the Lord's Church on earth. 
Its qualities describe how the Lord has provided it with everything it
needs to lead people to happier and more useful lives.  In the parable, the
goal of the vineyard was the harvested and processed crop.  The primary
thing that the Church is supposed to produce within our lives is genuine
charity in our hearts, minds, and lives.  That is what the Lord calls us
to, and all that stands in the way He warns us against.

At vintage-time, the owner sent a servant to receive some of the fruit. 
This servant represents the Lord knocking at the door of a persons's mind
calling on him or her to do what is good, merciful and just.  Many times
each day, we have opportunities placed before us to make decisions about
how we will serve others.  The Lord comes to a person of the Church with
the hope that he will choose to do what is truly good.  It is not uncommon
that this choice is not easy.  Other thoughts argue against it in our mind.
 These other thoughts, as it were, beat up on the thought sent to us by the
Lord, and the result is a refusal to do what the Lord had hoped we would

In one case the Lord's parable specifically cites that they threw stones at
the servant, wounding him in the head.  These stones represent the
self-righteous justifications that an externally pious person can marshall
to support his intolerance, hatred, neglect, and cruelty.  The Lord knocks
at the door of such a person's mind, sometimes through comments made by
others, sometimes by gently introducing a thought into the person's ideas,
and rather than receiving it and yielding up the life of good that the Lord
hopes for, the person rejects it and within his own mind argues that it is
wrong, irrelevant, or misguided.  The doctrinal justification that he
musters, wounds the head of the servant, meaning he rejects the essential
call to do what is good in the present situation.  

Everyone does this at various points in their life.  No one enters adult
life making the right choices spontaneously.  No one discovers a single key
early on and from then on never makes a mistake.  The key question is, what
are the fundamental values that direct our lives.  In the Writings of the
New Church these fundamental values are sometimes called our ruling love. 
This represents the core goal of our lives.  This core goal subtly or
directly influences all of our other values and choices.  The son of the
owner of the vineyard represents the Lord coming to us, not as the infinite
and unknowable God, but rather His entrance into our lives as a loving
Divine Human.  It is the rejection of this presence that fundamentally
defines the core of our lives.  This is represented in the parable by the
son of the owner coming to receive the vintage, and instead being killed. 
The vinedressers killed him in hopes that they would own the vineyard all
to themselves.  This represents a person rejecting the fundamental presence
of the Lord.  It represents a choice of a self-centered or world-centered
and directed life.  And this choice can be made under the guise of the most
dedicated religious behavior as it was with the corrupt Pharisees.

This is why the Lord as he finished the parable then quoted from the Psalms

        The stone which the builders rejected 
        Has become the chief cornerstone.  
        This is the Lord's doing.  
        And it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:22; Mark 12:10-11)

Have you ever watched a stonemason at work?  As he works he is surrounded
by a pile of stones from which he chooses the one he will next add to the
wall he is building.  After placing one, he looks over the possible stones
and picks the one that appears to best fit his needs.  As he picks through
a pile, if he happens to lift one that he doesn't think will fit, he tosses
it away, rejecting it.  If he finds one that he doesn't think will fit
anywhere because of its coloring or extremely difficult shape, he may pitch
it to the far edge of the pile or further.

Once the wall is underway, the process of choosing a stone and putting it
in place can be rather rapid.  But if you happen to be present at the
beginning of the wall, you will notice what care is given to the placement
of the chief cornerstone.  The placement of this stone determines at least
two edges or sides of the wall, and the placement of all other stones are
influenced by their relation to its initial position.  If it is correctly
placed, then the rest of the wall can work off of its correct placement. 
It if is misplaced, the wall will necessarily be flawed.

Why does the Lord speak to us about stonemasons and of a rejected stone
becoming the chief cornerstone?  We are the builders of our lives.  The
values, ideas, beliefs that guide our lives are like stones.  The choices
we make and their implications, both short-term and long-term, are like the
stones built into a wall.  These choices determine the quality of our lives
and our influence on others.  At any point in our lives we are like a
stonemason surrounded by stones that we can choose from.

What is the stone that is rejected?  It is the fundamental truth about who
we are in relationship to the Lord.  It is all too easy to not include Him
in our thinking.  It is too easy to become focused on the here and now, on
our own needs, on our own agendas of what is important.  The Lord calls us
above everything else to a love of Him and a love of our neighbor.  This
fundamental call of the Lord doesn't appear to fit very well into our own
plans and goals.  It is easy to reject.  Part of our mind does not believe
Him nor trust what He teaches.  For many of us, it is not that we totally
reject the Lord.  We will fit Him in somewhere.  Consider the following
words that describe a qualified desire for God's presence in a person's

        I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode
my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or
a snooze in the sunshine.  I don't want enough of Him to make me love a
black man or pick beets with a migrant.  I want ecstasy, not
transformation;  I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.  I want a
pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.  I would like to buy $3 worth of God,
please  (for reference, ask EHC).

We don't want to reject the Lord totally, but having Him as the chief
cornerstone of our life seems to be asking an awful lot.  The Lord looks
with compassion at us in the state of mind in which we are inclined to
think thoughts such as this.  He knows that over and over again in each
person's life it is inevitable that the chief cornerstone will be poorly
chosen.  Gradually He is working to lead us to a very different life; one
in which an many-times rejected stone becomes the central value of our
daily values, thoughts, and deeds.

The Lord would guide us, open our eyes, and help us to recognize the stone
that should be the chief cornerstone of our life.  May we do our part to
follow Him, to reflect on the choices we make, to see the flaws within our
values and ideas.  May we turn to the Lord in prayer and in life that
someday we can echo the words spoken by Him:

        The stone which the builders rejected 
        Has become the chief cornerstone.  
        This is the Lord's doing.  
        And it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:22,23; Mark 12:10-11).

       Lessons:         Mark 12:1-11

[C]orners . . . signifies . . . strength and stability. That "corners" have
this signification is because in the corners there is the greatest
resistance, and also the binding together of the whole. As a "corner"
denotes strength and stability, such as is that of Divine truth from Divine
good, therefore the Lord is called "the cornerstone" in the following
        The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the
corner (Ps. cxviii. 22; Matt. xxi. 42).
        Out of Judah shall come forth the cornerstone, out of him the nail,
and out of him the war-bow (Zech. x. 4).
        The Lord Jehovih will lay in Zion a tried stone, a precious corner
of foundation (Isa. xxviii. 18);
where in like manner a "corner" denotes the stability of the doctrine that
is from the truth which is from good.   Arcana Caelestia 9494

Since all the truth of doctrine from the Word must be founded upon the
acknowledgment of the Lord, therefore the Lord is called:-  The stone of
Israel (Gen. xlix. 24).  Also the cornerstone which the builders rejected
(Matt. xxi. 42; Mark xii. 10,11; Luke xx. 17, 18). That the cornerstone is
the foundation stone, appears from Jeremiah (Ii. 26). The Lord also in the
Word in many places is called a "Rock," wherefore by the "Rock" He meant
Himself, when he said:-  Upon this rock I will build My church (Matt. xvi.
18, 19); And also when he said:-  Whosoever heareth My words and doeth
them, is compared to a prudent man who buildeth a house and layeth the
foundation upon a rock (Luke vi. 47, 48; Matt. vii. 24, 26). By "a rock" is
signified the Lord as to the Divine truth of the Word. That all things of
the church and of its doctrine relate to these two: that the Lord is to be
approached immediately and that man must live a life according to the
commandments of the Decalogue by shunning evils as sins, and that thus all
things of doctrine relate to love to God, and to love towards the neighbor.
 Apocalypse Revealed 915

All books mentioned, other than from the Bible are written by Emanuel
Swedenborg and are often referred to in the New Church merely as "the
Writings."  We believe that they are equally the Word of God as the
revelation of the Old and New Testaments. 
Eric Carswell
Glenview, IL


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