46 - The Stone the Builders Rejected, Aug 30, 2015 (with audio)

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I Corinthians 16:13-24

Matthew 21:33-42

The LORD gives the key to the parable’s meaning this morning by drawing from the Psalm: “The Stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (cf. Psa 117:22 LXX or OSB) What is that meaning?

The Stone the builders rejected is the Son in the parable whom the vinedressers took outside of the vineyard and killed; i.e., it is Christ. In another place, Christ says that His Body, i.e. His human nature is the Temple. (Jn 2:21). Standing in the temple, He says to the scribes and Pharisees, the “builders” or “vinedressers” in this morning’s parable, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19 & 21) He was talking about His Holy Pascha when the “vinedressers” or “builders” would take Him outside of the city, the vineyard, and kill Him on the Cross.

He also said, “In three days, I will raise it up,” meaning His Holy Resurrection. In this, He reveals another, hidden temple beside the temple in Jerusalem: the Temple of His crucified, risen and glorified Body, the superior and perfect temple not made with hands; i.e., not of this creation (Heb 9:11), because the Temple of this Body was conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. (Lk 1:34-35) In this morning’s parable, the “tower” I believe is the temple of Jerusalem. The Stone which the builders rejected – i.e. Christ – is the other Temple of Christ’s Body that the “vinedressers” and “builders” took outside the city and killed.

In the same Psalm where we find this prophecy of the Stone, we also read: “God is the LORD and has revealed Himself to us! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the LORD!” From this morning’s parable, we see that the LORD God reveals Himself to us outside the city in His Body that was crucified and laid in a tomb and which has become the cornerstone of a heavenly, i.e., a superior and more perfect temple not made with hands, i.e., that is not of this creation. (Heb 9:11)

Let’s stay in Hebrews for a moment. St Paul writes: “The High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies alone and then but once a year, not without blood which he offered for himself and for the ignorance of the people. The Holy Spirit was revealing in this that the path or way into the Sanctuary [of the heavenly Temple not made with hands (cf. v. 11)] was not yet revealed so long as the first temple (or tent) still stood.” (Heb 9:8)

Is St Paul referring to the tent of the earthly temple of Jerusalem or to the tent of the Body of Christ, as we read in St John? “The LORD became flesh and pitched His tent among us.” (Jn 1:14) That would mean that the way into the heavenly Sanctuary of the temple not made with hands was revealed when Christ died on the Cross. That means that the tomb of Christ is the curtain that opens onto the heavenly Holy of Holies.

But, “When you hear of tombs,” writes St Macarius (3rd – 4th Century), “do not think of earthly tombs. Your own heart is a tomb.” For, apart from Christ, says St Paul, we are dead in our sins and trespasses. (Eph 2:1)

Of the heart, Jeremiah the prophet writes: “The heart is deep beyond all things, and it is the man.” (17:9 LXX or OSB) The heart is our true self that exists deeper than and beyond as it were our mind, our soul, our body, our earthly life, and therefore somehow beyond space-time in a kind of timeless dimension, or in the realm of spirit. So, would we say the same thing if instead of saying, the heart is deep beyond all things, we said, in our heart we exist outside the city asin a timeless, eternal tomb?

The Stone which the builders rejected, God the Son was taken outside the city and crucified on the Cross. St Paul says that He shared with us in our flesh and blood that He might be obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross. (cf. Heb 2:14 & Phil 2:8) He was buried in the tomb and He descended into hell. He descended into the place of our heart, into that timeless, eternal dimension where we exist as our true selves beyond all things. Here in this timeless dimension of the heart, in this realm of spirit, here is that “place” where all that happened “historically” in the “historical” life of God the Son incarnate is present “once and for all” to us here Today. It is present to us, that is to say, God the LORD reveals Himself and comes to us in the tomb of our heart where we are in our true selves outside the city. In the deep place of our heart where we exist beyond all things (even space-time), the Stone the builders rejected has been laid and it has become the cornerstone of that hidden Temple, hidden because it is not made with hands, it is not of this creation. It is in the world but it is not of it; it is the other tower in the true Vineyard of the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you, in the hidden deeps of your heart outside the city where you exist as your real self beyond all things.

What the LORD has done is marvelous in our eyes, says the Psalmist. He has become the cornerstone of a new temple that is in the world but not of it. He not only unites Jews and Gentiles to make them into one heavenly race of Christians, one heavenly Temple in this place outside the city where mankind exists beyond ethnic and national distinctions. He also joins in Himself earth to heaven, time to eternity, “yesterday” and “tomorrow” to Today, death to Life. Here, in the tomb outside the city, outside space-time where He has been laid as the Cornerstone, earth is opened onto heaven, the cave is opened onto Eden, the curtain of the earthly sanctuary is torn from top to bottom, the heavens are opened, and the way into the Holy of Holies not made with hands is revealed.

Where is it, how do we get to it, how do we walk it?

It’s outside the city, i.e.in the tomb of our heart that is beyond all things. How do we get to it? Not by reading about it or thinking about it or even by believing it; for then we are staying in the city, we are living not in our deep heart where Christ reveals Himself but in our mind or in our emotions or in our flesh, i.e., in the life of this world. To get outside the city into the tomb of our heart, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross. These are the ascetic disciplines of the Church; by them, we put to death what is earthly in us, and this is how we follow Christ out of the city and begin to make our way into the tomb of our heart.

But, beloved faithful: the stone which the builders rejected and which has become the cornerstone of the new temple that unites earth to heaven, death to life and man to God is the Church, the Body of Christ. That means that all the words of the Church – her prayers, her doctrines, her icons, her liturgical worship, her sacraments – are of the Word of God who has become the Cornerstone of the heavenly temple laid in the tomb outside the city, in the tomb of our heart, in our death. It seems to me, therefore, that when we begin to live in our heart the Life of the Church and not the life of the world, doing the ascetic discipline of the Church, that’s when we step onto this way revealed in the death of Christ that leads outside the city and into our heart that is deep beyond all things. For, there outside the city, on the Cross, God reveals Himself to us in His final and most perfect Theophany. And when we live the life of the Church by taking up the cross of the Church’s ascetic disciplines and putting to death what is earthly in us, losing our life or dying for His sake, that’s when we receive and come really to know the LORD who reveals Himself to us. That is the way hidden until now that brings us into the tomb of our heart outside the city, deep beyond all things; and that’s where Christ God comes to us in the Name of the LORD, i.e., in the love of the Holy Trinity that abides forever. That is when we come to know from the living experience of our own heart this Kingdom of Heaven that the LORD said is within you – in your deep heart beyond all things, outside the city, where Christ has opened our hearts out into the love of God that abides forever. Amen!