Mark 6:30-34; Ephesians 2:11-22; The Cornerstone (7-19-15)

 

On September 18, 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building.

In a mysterious turn of events sometime thereafter, the priceless silver plate and cornerstone disappeared. Eluded by investigators and searches and clouded by false claims of discovery throughout the decades, the issue remains a puzzlement. Further complicating the matter is bureaucratic incompetence and a cover-up by the office of the Architect of the Capitol.

The disappearance of the silver plate and cornerstone is but one of many mysteries surrounding Washington’s beloved Masonry. Perhaps long ago these artifacts were taken covertly by the Masons in order to protect them from people bent on destroying them and their legacy.

The hunt for the treasured cornerstone and silver plate became a national challenge. One of the first organized searches started with the 100 year anniversary (1893) of the US Capitol, but neither the stone nor the plate were found.

Again an attempt was made in the 1950’s and again, nothing.

In 1985, yet another attempt to find the long lost cornerstone failed.

In 1991, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey were drafted in an effort to find the long-missing plate and cornerstone. But they failed. Once again neither was found even with the advantage of modern technology.

But two years later, in 1993, then-Capitol Architect, George M. White, felt the immense political pressures of the Capitol’s nearing bicentennial closing in on him.

Suddenly and remarkably, the Washington cornerstone was announced “found” in the face of all previous failed attempts. Miraculously…and suspiciously after missing for 200 years… the Washington cornerstone was “discovered” just weeks before the celebration of the U.S. Capitol’s 200-year anniversary, in which President Clinton participated.

Great detail was given to the description of the newly found cornerstone. Then-U.S. Capitol Historian, William Allen, pronounced to The Associated Press that the stone was, “well cut, its edges are square … it shows a promising level of finesse.” The Architect’s office also produced a lengthy report in October 1993 detailing the discovery of the long-lost stone.

Written at the time, “The Architect of the Capitol believes it is in fact the ‘missing’ stone,” in a book, The Search for the Capitol Cornerstone.

That was then when a stone was needed for the 200th anniversary.

Today, according to spokeswoman Kristen Wandell, the official position of the Architect’s office regarding the whereabouts of the appearing-disappearing-reappearing cornerstone is that it is missing … again.

Also, as photos of the 1993 stone are studied, Capitol Historian Allen’s description of a smooth and well-cut stone are demonstrably false. The photos are nothing like that described by Allen. In every painting and drawing (and there are many) of President Washington laying the cornerstone, the stone portrayed was highly polished with sharp edges. Some representations show the year “1793” chiseled on one side.

Not one painting or etching depicts an irregular and, yes, ugly cornerstone as the one photographed in 1993. All accounts of Washington’s ceremony clearly show a handsome gray stone, worthy of such a momentous event. It is still officially missing!

Jesus is our cornerstone: the central reality of the Church.

Jesus is the reason the church exists: we follow our leader as faithful disciples.

Paul reminds us of our position in Christ Jesus: “but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

This is GOOD NEWS: we are citizens of God’s holy household.

But, we must always be careful not to lose the cornerstone.

We must not allow Jesus—the Cornerstone to get lost.

We must not allow the busyness of life overshadow Jesus.

We must not allow the fear of the future hide Jesus from us.

We must not allow our anger/frustration about life cause us to lose sight of Jesus.

We must not get so involved in church work and ministry that we ignore Jesus and lose sight of his role as the cornerstone.

That is the issue in Mark 6.

The disciples return from their mission trip to the surrounding villages.

They are very excited.

They performed miracles in Jesus’ name.

They cast out demons from oppressed people.

They taught with the wisdom and power of Jesus.

This was new territory: they had never been ministry instruments before!

They liked this experience: they had broken through the realm of darkness and revealed God’s light!

It is noteworthy to see what Jesus did next: he doesn’t send them out on a second mission trip!

He takes them on vacation: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

Jesus wanted to teach them the secret of ministry: self-care.

It is the same lesson found in the story of 2 lumber men.

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest.

The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunchbreak.

The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day.

At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find out the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did!”

The winning woodsman said: “But you didn’t notice that I was sharpening my axe when I sat down to rest.”

This is Jesus’ main point in taking these disciples on vacation:

       Jesus wanted to sharpen their axes;

       Jesus wanted to increase their understanding;

       Jesus wanted to teach them about ministry;

Jesus was acting like the Cornerstone—building the disciples into a spiritual building—the Church.

This planned vacation never happened—the crowds found them and were at their hotel even before they checked in!

I’m sure that happened a lot for Jesus.

Many of us would be upset if our vacation plans were interrupted.

How would you feel if your boss asked you to work through your vacation?

How would you like to become a branch office of your company in the town that you tried to escape to?

How would you like to be called by your co-workers every day with questions about work while you were on vacation?

Early in my ministry, I learned that if I really wanted to rest on vacation I could not visit family.

Once, we visited my wife’s grandparents in Georgia.

We planned to spend some quiet time on their dairy farm: we were going to sleep late, eat when we wanted to, watch movies, and enjoy the slower pace of “country living.”

It didn’t turn out that way.

Every day, one of Kathy’s relatives—aunt and uncle, cousins, or a distance great aunt—came to visit the son-in-law preacher.

It seemed that I was considered safe to talk to because I didn’t know anybody in their church, their community, or their family.

They poured out their spiritual, personal, financial, emotional problems.

They realized as a trained pastoral counselor, I could help them.

I was trapped! I worked more that week than at my own church!

I decided that I would never do that again!

Jesus wasn’t upset by this interruption!

He didn’t mind the change of plans in his training retreat with the disciples.

He saw them with the eyes of a good shepherd.

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”          (Mark 6:34)

Jesus used this situation as a teaching moment.

Jesus revealed the cornerstone of ministry is Compassion!

When we talk about Jesus as the Cornerstone of the church—we are correct!

Jesus tells us a deeper truth: Compassion is the Cornerstone of Jesus.

If we really want to understand how to minister in Jesus’ spirit:

       We must see that compassion is the core of any ministry;

       Compassion is the ONLY acceptable motivation;

       Compassion is the ONLY Christian methodology;

       Compassion is the only way to be faithful disciples.

This story helps us to see the depth of Jesus’ compassion.

Jesus saw the people…

Jesus saw the people:

       Not as a crowd of people wanting to ruin his vacation;

       Not as a crowd interrupting his training session with the 12;

       Not as a crowd looking for a cornerstone;

       He saw sheep without a shepherd.

The crowds were wandering aimlessly through the wilderness.

They knew they needed something: food, water, protection.

They didn’t know how to get what they needed.

They didn’t know which shepherd to follow.

They were like the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses.

Moses was appointed to be the shepherd of Israel:

       He led them out of Egyptian slavery;

       He led them through the Red Sea;

       He led them through the wilderness;

       He led them to the promised land.

But the sheep were rebellious.

       They didn’t want to follow shepherd Moses;

       Many of them lost their way in the wilderness;

       They became victims of the desert;

       They were hungry for food/ thirsty for living water;

       They wandered away from their compassionate God.

Jesus saw the same kind of sheep in this crowd.

Jesus saw the rebellious sheep and had compassion.

Jesus saw the lost sheep and had compassion.

Jesus saw the exhausted sheep and had compassion

He knew that only God could provide for their needs.

He had compassion on them—he fed their spirits; he fed their bodies, he fed their emotions.

“He began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

He taught them through his compassion—he became our Good Shepherd; the very cornerstone of the church.

If you have lost track of the Cornerstone of the Christian faith:

HE IS JESUS!

If you have misplaced the Cornerstone of Christian ministry:

                                  COMPASSION!

If you are a rebellious sheep: JESUS WILL TEACH YOU.

If you are a lost sheep: JESUS WILL SHEPHERD YOU.

If you are spiritually hungry: JESUS WILL FEED YOU.

This is the Cornerstone of Jesus’ church: God is building us into a church of Compassion.