Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton
Recently I preached a sermon at Central CC in Russellville, AR to commemorate their 155th church anniversary using the scriptures in I Cor. 3:10-11 and Ephesians 2:20 which reads: According to the grace of God, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone. In him, the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” This world communion mediation is inspired by Jesus as our foundation and cornerstone.
When I think about building foundations, I think about what they are made of, the materials, what holds them together. A foundation is the basis upon which something stands or is supported. Foundations are concrete, strong, sturdy, can endure storms, wear and tear. A foundation is an underlying natural or prepared base or support. A foundation is a body or ground upon which something is built or overlaid. When foundations are not properly laid, you may have some trouble. If our homes, churches, businesses, schools are not built on a solid foundation, they may cave in on us.
We have to be careful in building spiritual foundations with things other than Jesus Christ, practices that creep into our spiritual lives, exposing the cracks of sin, racism, privilege, self-interests and silos for my church. Complacency and lethargy eat away at our spiritual foundation. Yes, we continue our rituals of worship every Sunday. Yes, praise the Lord and talk about the goodness of Jesus. But Paul warns that the church’s foundation may contain shallow materials, like gold, silver, – we can add hatred, and the list builds a shaky foundation, deeming us irrelevant.
As Disciples, we have some spiritual foundations that our fore parents laid for us. To build on our disciple’s identity, the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and we accept him as our personal Lord and savior. We build on the centrality of the Lord’s supper, this weekly rich celebration that reminds us of the hospitality of God and how we are called to show to every one of God’s children all the time
We build on our ancestors’ practice of unity as our polar star, justice, inclusiveness, and antiracism. That all people are on even ground before God. That no one stands taller than anyone else, for God’s grace is for all. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.(I Cor. 12:13). And so our foundation is laid with Jesus Christ, the spiritual practices that help us develop mature Disciples.
We build on the priesthood of all believers, the conviction that every confessing Disciple has a vocation of servanthood, we all are ministers. God called us to some purpose some function in the body of Christ. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Who were once not a people but now are the people of God. Who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Are these practices enough to keep us grounded?
When I wanted understanding of a foundation and a cornerstone, I hit a google search curious as to how the cornerstone fits into the overall structure of a spiritual foundation.
I found that while the foundation secures the structure, historically, the cornerstone is the most important part of any building. The total weight of an edifice rested on this particular stone, which, if removed, would collapse the whole structure. The cornerstone is also the key to keeping the walls straight. The builders would take sightings along the edges of this part of the building.
If the cornerstone was set properly, the stonemasons could be assured that all the other corners of the building would be at the appropriate angles as well. Thus, the cornerstone became a symbol for that which held life together. Jesus as our cornerstone, is our symbol for that which holds our life together.
My brothers and sisters, God declared in the days of Isaish that while, the Israelites rested their security on a different cornerstone, God declared through Isaiah that God would establish a cornerstone that would never fail–a stone that could be trusted because it had been tried and proven to be precious and sure. He is the stone which the builders rejected, and has now become the chief cornerstone. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people.
And so while we focus on Jesus as the foundation of our spiritual lives, it is Jesus as the cornerstone which helps us to keep all of life together. It is our intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, keeps us moving when we want to give up. It is the whisper of the shepherd, that we hear, which keeps us grounded in his love, inspired to understand our life and experiences. Jesus as the cornerstone makes life worth living, and gives us the fortitude, when our foundations gets shaky. As our grandparents use to say, “you’ve got to know him for yourself.”
I am convinced that the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, he is her new creation, by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride, with his own blood he bought her and for her life he died. Amid toil and tribulation and tumult of our war, we wait the consummation of peace forever more, till with the vision glorious our longing eyes are blessed, and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
We now on earth have union with God, the three in one, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won, oh happy ones and holy, Lord give us grace that we, like them the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.
I pray as we celebrate World Communion Sunday, we continue to build on what we learned as Disciples, to build on what was, what is, and what will be through spiritual development. I pray that the cornerstone of our lives, the one who holds all of life together, Jesus Christ, helps us to live, move and have our being in him.