There are many things that hurt in life, but are there many things that hurt worse in life than being rejected? Whether you are five years old or ninety-five years old, it can be debilitating and demoralizing to feel like you have been rejected by someone you love or by a group of people you want to be part of or by mockers that think you are hopeless or by know-it-alls who think you are clueless, not to mention if you feel you have been rejected by God himself. Yes, it can often bring you to anger or to tears, can’t it – and sometimes at that moment can even seem to ruin your life — when someone says or acts like they don’t need you or they don’t want you or they don’t care about what you say or think, which is usually because what they are really saying is that they don’t respect what you say or think, which usually means they don’t respect you. It can happen with people in your family, it can happen with people at your work, it can happen on social media, it can happen in the culture that surrounds us. There are many reasons that many of us – that any of us – that all of us — can feel rejected. Maybe you are experiencing that right now… I pray that the lesson from God’s word this afternoon will help you with deal with what might be happening to you right now or when it does happen to you in the future. When you feel rejected, remember the Stone, and remember the Vineyard. A reading from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 20:
He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’[a]? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. The Word of the Lord.
Most of you, I assume, remember the little model of the stained glass window that we had placed by that door for a number of weeks, so you could get a little taste of the brightness and color that would be manifested when the actual window – some twenty-five times larger – gets placed into our new church sanctuary right behind the altar. Our hope is that it will be a wonderful expression of vibrant praise, as we thank God for sending Jesus to be our Savior. But what would happen if the builders of our church took a look at it and rejected it? And not only rejected it, but replaced it with something they thought would be far better – like a twenty-five-foot by fifteen-foot piece of black construction paper, colored over again and again with black magic marker, and covered over again and again with heavy black tape. That rejection would not just make the window feel bad, if windows had feelings, but it would deprive everyone of the opportunity to be blessed by it.
Now, that of course is an earthly example in which people can have different opinions, but there can be no opinion about this parable that Jesus told other than Jesus was warning these religious leaders, who were trying to trap him during these last days of his life that, just as their forefathers had rejected all those prophets with names like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Micah and Nahum and Habakkuk by not listening to them and by instead insulting them and by hurting some of them and even by killing others of them, that they right now were in danger of doing the very same thing to the one whom all those prophets had been talking about – the promised Messiah, the much-needed Savior of the world – and depriving themselves of the opportunity to be blessed by him.
Sadly for so many – and thankfully for us in God’s grace – the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone. Yes, Jesus was the stained-glass window. To use the words here, Jesus is the stone, the living Stone, the cornerstone — the stone on which the entire spiritual building of God’s people depends, relies on and follows, making the warning which Jesus spoke so piercing for those who heard him tell this parable and so important for us who every day can be tempted to treat the message of Jesus the same way: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces,” Jesus said. “(And) anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
Maybe you have heard the old proverb: “If a stone falls on a pot, woe to the pot. If the pot falls on the stone, woe to the pot. Either way, woe to the pot.” The stone is still the stone. If you or I are ever tempted to trip over the loving work of Jesus Christ, Jesus in his love for us warns us that we will be broken to pieces, which is indeed woe to us. But our rejection of Jesus Christ will not affect Jesus Christ. He will still be Jesus Christ. And that is why in the midst of this warning, which leads us to say, “I am so sorry, God,” we can also be so thankful that Jesus Christ is still Jesus Christ. Though so many then – and so many today – reject him, he assures us, yes, he promises us, that through that rejection which led to him being stricken, smitten and afflicted, and dying on the cross, we will never be rejected by our Father in heaven. Through what the rejected Stone allowed to happen to him, he will never allow eternal rejection to happen to us. No matter what we deserve to have God do to us, no matter what earthly rejections God allows us to experience, nothing will ever separate us from his love. When you feel rejected – if you feel rejected right now – Remember the Stone. He bore on his back your and my rejections of him, and he, therefore, understands all the rejections you or I suffer in our day-by-day life as a child of God.
And that’s why we also want to Remember the Vineyard. This parable is primarily a warning to people then – and to people now – not to reject Jesus or those who tell us the message of Jesus. He is the cornerstone of our faith. But there is also an important lesson we can think about when we think about the vineyard part of the parable. The people who heard Jesus talk about an owner who had a vineyard would have thought about some of the words the prophet of old named Isaiah had spoken many years before when he compared God’s people to a vineyard. Isaiah had said, “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard.. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.” The point God was making was that he loved his people so much that he had done so much for them in giving them their lives on earth and in giving them so many blessings on earth and in giving them the promise of eternal life in heaven when it was their time to leave this earth, just as God has so wonderfully done for each and every one of us. So, of course, our dear Lord wants us as his dearly loved children to bear fruit in our lives to show him our thanks and our love, which is what Jesus was saying in his parable when he said the owner of the vineyard wanted the people to whom he had rented the vineyard to give some of the fruit of the vineyard to him through those servants he sent to them. In Jesus’ parable, that had a sad ending, of course, as people throughout the history of the Bible rejected and hurt and killed those servants — those prophets — who brought that loving message from God.
But you and I can look at these same words in a totally different way and say to ourselves, “Of course, I want to remember the vineyard. Of course, I want to remember how God has provided so much for me, without me having given him even one single reason to have done it. I have the fruit of God’s vineyard in my family, my friends, my faith, and my future. And so I can know that whether I am five years old or ninety-five years old, I am not rejected, even when I feel rejected…” When you feel rejected, remember the Stone, who is the foundation of your life as a forgiven child of God and the certainty of your life to come, and remember the Vineyard – the life which God has given you with so much to enjoy now and so much more to look forward to later – and all because our Lord Jesus Christ – the one the builders rejected — has become our cornerstone – yes, all because our Lord Jesus Christ wants you to know that nothing can ever change the fact that you belong to him – and nothing that anyone ever says or thinks about you can ever change what God says and thinks about you, because our Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.