October 5, 2008 - Special Guests: Mr. Colm Wilkinson (musical guest), Mr. David Zimmer, M.P.P. Willowdale, Rev. Dr. Richard Davidson (Minister Emeritus) and Rev. Dr. John Hartley.
Celebrating Cornerstones & Broken Hallelujahs – Rev. Mark MacLean
Hallelujah for this Sanctuary in the City based on the Cornerstone of Jesus the Christ – Praise to the Lord – we're here for another century! We've heard three words today that I'll draw your attention to – Hallelujah, Cornerstone and Sanctuary. We've heard them all before and I'm sure we have a sense of what they mean but how do they impact us here today in this celebration. Christianity is sometimes accused of being far too jargon based, far too inaccessible to the uninitiated. I beg to differ. I don't believe that we are limiting language or meaning but simply using to its fullest capacity, exploring meaning and implication for simple things like words. I don't know a poet or a lawyer who would say words are simple things. To seek simple answers, to demand black and white was not the call of Jesus in his life or ministry. To wrestle with life faithfully, to engage the community honestly and to live together lovingly was his call.
As Christians we've understood Hallelujah to be the cry of joy the for proclamation for the Gospel, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ – yet its roots precede this. Hallelujah is the Hebrew term for the call of the whole community to offer a loud song of praise to God in a wild and raucous, God forbid, boisterous manner – not very Presbyterian! In essence Hallelujah is our communal song to God – a song of thankfulness and praise. When we cry Hallelujah we call the whole of creation into a passionate plea to our Creator.
We've heard a lot about Cornerstones today; the Ten Commandments – cornerstones of our civil system of justice and moral guideposts; Bill Pr 3 – St. Andrew's United Church Act 2008 our new private members bill – cornerstone of the future of this congregation; the parable of the Vineyard from Matthew – Jesus Christ the Cornerstone of our faith – Hallelujah for them all! The image of the cornerstone comes to us from the same rich Hebrew tradition that Hallelujah came from, The Psalms. The age old songs of praise and lament singing of God's loving action in the world journeying with the chosen nation of the Israelites. The cornerstone was essential to construction in Matthew's day for in it knit the walls together – it was the core strength of a structure.
Those who had the responsibility for selection of a cornerstone took their work very seriously. In our gospel reading today the landowner creates a beautiful and fruitful vineyard to which he commits all his energy, love and resources and entrusts it to his staff and even his own son. He then invites tenants to the land and the midst of their frivolous folly they reject and so lose what was given freely. The key to understanding this parable today is that the image of the cornerstone Jesus uses signifies rejection. The cornerstone, the ministry and Word of Jesus was picked over, analyzed, tested and found wanting by the religious authorities of his day – a broken Hallelujah.
Each of us walks our own journey of spirituality and faith. We attempt to accept and uphold the ideals offered in the Ten Commandments and ministry of Jesus. Basically we try to be good people – yet we stumble and fall again and again. We must accept that we cannot go it alone and will never do it perfectly but we have a promise a new covenant – there is a new song.
The new song is a vision of faith revealed in the life, living and new life in Christ – it is a song of love, a rhythm of acceptance that destroys boundaries of class, race, culture and creed – the song of this Sanctuary in the City.
Sanctuary a place of safety – not a place to hide from the world – not fortress to cower from all that challenges and disturbs us but a retreat; a refuge to be in which to be renewed, rejuvenated and walk in the Spirit so we might offer praise to God. Here we revel in and with a community committed to proclaiming Hallelujah. Here we support the cornerstone of faith, spirituality and justice for people who are seeking so much more for their lives. From here we return to our lives and community with vision, faith and encouragement for our own journeys.
This Sanctuary in the City is itself a cornerstone, a symbol of God's just and loving action in the world. We, the next generation of faith, stumbling and imperfect as we are, have been are entrusted with its care. We must raise a boisterous song of Praise to our God.