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Summary: Contrasts the notion of Christ as foundation with Christ as Capstone, leading us up towards God.

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Sermon: 28th March 1999 (My very first sermon before beginning at Theological College)

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When a Parish sends one of its congregation for training towards the Priestly Ministry, it is a time for great joy and great pain.

Joy, because we can see it as evidence of the vibrancy of a parish that provides such inspiration and allows the call to vocation to come through to a member of our congregation...

And Great Pain, which is what you unfortunately have to be subjected to now. So, let us pray: May my words be now and always acceptable in your sight, open our hearts to the message containing in your Scripture in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"?

Today, of course, Palm Sunday is a major day of celebration: the end of the Lent Period, and the remembrance of that great triumphal entrance into Jerusalem - we heard this morning the joyful cries of the people of Jerusalem - Hosanna to the Messiah, the King of Kings.

Palm Sunday is a bittersweet day, where we see Jesus finally getting the honour and glory that his ministry fully deserved, yet at the same time, he road steadily onwards towards his death and his sacrifice for us. It provides a small highlight of joy, coming as it does between our Lenten preparations, and the sorrow associated with His Death and Passion, a day that accentuates the blessed relief and sure knowledge that Easter Day gives to us.

Palm Sunday is therefore a day which brings into sharp focus all of the contradictions which Christ’s Ministry on earth presents to us. The majority of the crowd brandishing palm leaves and making a public display were expecting a very different kind of Messiah: a military messiah, a rightful king, who would liberate the Jews in the same dynamic manner as his ancestor David. They had become so preoccupied with this image of a knight on a shining white horse that they failed to notice the other Christ, the anointed one which was promised to us in the writings of prophets such as Isaiah: the suffering servant, the rider not on a white charger, but on a donkey: a warrior armed not with a sword but with fire.

Christ was never under any illusions about his fate as he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, and spoke many times, both in this Holy Week and for a long time before about his impending sacrifice. Christ clearly understood his role as the atoning sacrifice for us all, as illustrated in this parable we hear tonight: how the wicked tenants wilfully destroy the landlords son, in the vain hope of picking up the inheritance; whereas if they had responded warmly to the landlord’s son, they would probably have been allowed to keep the harvest; for all their wickedness, the landlord did not appear to want to evict them.

Jesus then caps off this highly autobiographical parable with the key lines: a quotation from Psalm 118: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"?

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