By Pastor Pam Seebach
Harmony, Mabel, and Newburg United Methodist Churches
A few years ago, my husband decided to build a woodshed in our side yard. Well, our house is built on top of a hill and the yard slopes away on both sides. As he considered various locations for the woodshed, it became apparent that the cornerstone of the building was going to have to be very sturdy, or the woodshed might just slide down the hill! In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us that Jesus is the cornerstone of the household of God.
A cornerstone is defined as a stone which forms the base at the corner of a building, joining two walls. Historically, the cornerstone was the first stone which was set in the construction of a masonry foundation. In ancient times, the placement of a cornerstone involved a ceremony with human or animal sacrifice, and the sacrificed body was laid in the foundation. Later, offerings of grain, wine or oil took the place of human or animal sacrifices and were placed on or under the cornerstone in hopes that the foundation would be sturdy and the building long-lasting. Our woodshed has concrete blocks for its cornerstone, but many important buildings have elaborate cornerstones with a message, or the date of placement etched into them. The placement of the cornerstone is crucial since all the other stones of the foundation and walls will be set in reference to this stone – it determines the strength of the entire structure.
The importance of the cornerstone in construction and architecture has led to a secondary definition of the word: ‘cornerstone’ can refer to an important quality or feature on which a particular idea or belief depends or is based; something of basic importance. In Psalm 118 the prophet proclaimed, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” In Isaiah, God is reported as saying, “See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.” And then, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells the people that they are “citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” This phrase is repeated in three of the four gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, and 1st Peter, emphasizing the prophesied and historical significance of Jesus Christ to Christians.
How many of us have, at some point in our lives, felt something missing in our hearts or lives and turned (or turned back to) the church? How many remember feeling drawn to church after the horrors of 9/11? How many of us have encountered a difficult time in life, reached out to Jesus, and felt peace? Many years ago, I lived in southern Italy for 2 ½ years. Being so far from home, I often felt lonely and homesick, but wherever I travelled, whenever I entered one of the thousands of churches, I always experienced a feeling of comfort. Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He said that for me and for YOU. When we are building the woodshed of our lives, we need a solid foundation; we need a cornerstone which will never shift and will not let us slide down the hill. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. Thanks be to God.