Ordinary Time (Proper 22)
Matthew 21:33–46/21:34–49 IV
Jesus, the Cornerstone
Isaiah 5:1–7, Psalms 80:7–15, Philippians 3:4b–14, 2 Nephi 3:50
Call to Worship
Let us look to the Lord as the cornerstone of our faith. Let us build our lives on that cornerstone. May the choices we make reflect our dedication to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Today, may we experience Jesus as the very foundation of our lives.
Hymn of Foundation
“How Firm a Foundation” CCS 250
OR “Fountain of All Revelation” CCS 67
Matthew 21:33–46/21:34–49 IV
You will need several blocks, flat rocks, a ball, and pillow.
I am going to build a tower. First, I am going to try it with this ball on the bottom. Try to place building blocks on top of the ball. Well, that didn’t work. Let’s see if this pillow will be any better. Try to build a tower of blocks on top of the pillow. Oh dear, it keeps falling. What do you think is wrong? Receive ideas from the congregation. Neither the ball nor the pillow provide a good foundation for building a tower.
In many building designs the foundation is made from rocks or stones. The main rock is called the cornerstone. Once it is placed, other rocks are laid next to it to build the foundation. This strong foundation keeps the building from falling down. Demonstrate the concept with the flat rocks as a foundation and build a tower with blocks on top of the rock foundation.
A good foundation is important in our lives as well. Jesus is our cornerstone and we build our lives around his example.
Hymn of Discipleship
“He Came Singing Love” CCS 226
OR “Lord, Whose Love” CCS 346
Based on Matthew 21:33–46/21:34–49 IV
Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn
“Who Is This Jesus” CCS 38
OR “Clouds of Witnesses Surround Us” CCS 372
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
May we be inspired to build upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. In our world today, many people are suffering injustice, abuse, and violence. Often political leaders have their own agendas with a focus on their own interests. Wars are being fought and people are finding themselves hurt and homeless. Give us the courage to make a difference in the lives of people who are persecuted. Give us the strength to deal with those who are abused and those who are the abusers. Give us the wisdom to make responsible choices to end suffering. Let Jesus Christ be our foundation and may we live with a Christ-like love that is self-sacrificing and unselfish. Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Disciples’ Generous Response
Rejoice, my heart, and cry to the Lord, and say, O Lord, I will praise you forever; my soul will rejoice in you, my God, and the rock of my salvation. —2 Nephi 3:50, adapted
Our Disciples’ Generous Response is an act of worship. When we reach out to give our envelopes and money, it is an act of praise. We rejoice in God’s generosity and praise the rock-solid foundation we have in the life of Jesus Christ. May we give this day as a way to demonstrate our worship and praise of Jesus, the Cornerstone.
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Commitment
“Jésus est le rocher de ma vie/Jesus Is the Rock for You and Me” CCS 265
Consider adding motions and hand claps as indicated in the text.
OR “My Life Flows On in Endless Song” CCS 263
Let us go forth with Jesus in our hearts. His teachings show us the way to live our lives, to be disciples, and to build on this firm foundation. Go into this week with Jesus as the cornerstone of your life!
Ordinary Time (Proper 22)
Exploring the Scripture
The scripture text for today is set in the final week of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and his arrival has set in motion the events leading up to his crucifixion. On this day he has gone into the temple and there he speaks to the religious leaders. This parable is the second of three parables that address the leaders’ unjust behavior, lack of faithfulness, and greed. In each parable the corruption and unjust practices of those entrusted with responsibility and oversight are exposed.
As the parable unfolds, a man invests in building a vineyard then leases it to tenants. This form of sharecropping was a common practice of the time. At harvest time he sends his representatives (slaves) to collect his share of the crop. Rather than complying with their agreement the tenants kill the slaves. The owner does not give up but instead sends a second group of slaves who are also killed. Even in the face of this second act of defiance the owner does not give up nor does he turn to retribution. He gives the tenants another opportunity by sending his own son to collect what is due. This final effort ends in failure when out of greed the tenants kill the owner’s son.
This parable of the wicked tenants would have been clearly understood by those listening. The leaders would have recognized the symbolism Jesus employs as coming from the prophet Isaiah (ch. 5). God is the vineyard owner, Israel is the vineyard, the slaves are the prophets of old, and the religious leaders are the tenants.
As Jesus closes the parable, he asks the leaders what the owner will do to the wicked tenants. In their answer (he will put them to a wicked death and lease the vineyard to new tenants) the leaders condemn their own behavior. Jesus ends this exchange by quoting Psalm 118:22–23. In doing so he is telling the religious leaders that what they reject (Jesus) will become the cornerstone of the kingdom of God. This stone and the kingdom built on it will endure. It will not be broken but will prove undoing to those who trip over it, or on whom it falls.
These verses foreshadow the crucifixion of Jesus. His statements also suggest the responsibilities of leadership will be taken from the leaders (chief priests and Pharisees) and turned over to the followers of Jesus. These followers, mostly Jews as well as some Gentiles, would be the new “tenants in the vineyard.” It will be these new tenants who will produce fruits of the kingdom and serve as leaders in God’s community. These remarks anger the current leaders in the temple. They want to have Jesus arrested but avoid that act for fear of his many followers.
The tenants were given several opportunities to uphold their agreement with the owner of the vineyard. Even when they acted in unjust ways the owner sent emissaries and continued to seek ways to bring about redemption. God calls us time and again to repentance and reconciliation.
Sometimes our own unfaithfulness, consumerism, and unjust practices keep us from sharing the good fruits of the gospel. We can become like the wicked tenants. Let us take the opportunity to reflect on our discipleship in ways that uphold the fruits of the peaceable kingdom. We are given the opportunity to come back to God, to give over to God those parts of ourselves that keep us from sharing the gospel, and be made whole again by God’s love.
This text also reminds us that Jesus is the cornerstone of the peaceable reign of God. To serve as a follower or disciple of Jesus is more than holding right beliefs. It is to act on those beliefs in ways that bring about the fruits of justice-making and peace. While we may be tenants here on Earth, we are still accountable for the fruits of the kingdom and are called to action to nurture them to help build a more peaceful and just society.
- This text highlights the responsibility we have been given to tend God’s kingdom.
- Like the landowner, God continues to call us to repentance and forgiveness.
- Sometimes our own unfaithfulness, consumerism, and unjust practices keep us from sharing the good fruits of the gospel.
- Jesus is the cornerstone of the reign of God.
- We are called to action to help bring about the fruits of justice-making and peace.
Questions to Consider
- As Christians we are tenants in God’s vineyard. What fruits of the kingdom are produced in your life, congregation, and community?
- Part of holistic discipleship is generosity. How does this parable inform your giving according to your true capacity?
- How does the radical message of Jesus serve as a cornerstone in your discipleship?
- How does this text relate to the sacrament of Communion?