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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Today’s Reading | Mark 11:27–12:12
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin ’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away. (NRSV)
When Jesus quotes the scripture about stone, he is expressing that the society these socio-religious leaders are building won’t hold, for it has rejected the cornerstone (or keystone). In references to this society in other parables and stories, Jesus also suggests that the society has been built on the oppression of widows, the strangers, the sick, and the poor.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, I wonder about the society we’ve built. The racial tensions have been highlighted, once again, in a country with a tragic history of racism and oppression. Our arguments are largely technical or legal. Have we missed the cornerstone to building a society in which we can live as neighbors in community, work toward the common good, and value each child of God?
What about sharing God’s love with all of God’s creation? As author Jim Corbett shares in his book Goatwalking:
The quest for truth (as science) and for right (as law) is the quest for communion (as religion). . . . Each seeks reconciliation, integration, and coherence. . . . When I seek truth, right or communion rather than victory, my adversary is precisely the teacher I need.
In the wake of tragedies and conflicts, with all their complications, we don’t need to prove our points and win the argument or tangle over technicalities. What is needed from the community of faith is compassion, a willingness to listen, and the space to learn how to share God’s love. Yes, let us be informed about the events that challenge us, let us cry out for justice with righteous indignation, let us work for good, and let us do this all with the love of God that is the true cornerstone for a just and compassionate society.
Loving God, help us to receive rather than reject the cornerstone—your love; help us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Amen.
Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident
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