When I was in kindergarten, we lived on Waikiki Drive. I could walk to school, and I loved the big weeping willow tree in our backyard. My neighbor was also named Ricky. He was older and much bigger, so everyone called him Big Ricky and me, Little Ricky.
Once the two Rickys built a fort. It was probably made from plywood; I can’t really remember. Our fort lacked a cornerstone, because nobody had taught us the importance of having one. So our fort was rickety, but at least it stood, for a while. The ritual for belonging to our fort was to sprinkle dirt into one of those little boxes of raisins, and then eat them. It was a secret ritual only performed inside the fort, out of sight of parental observation.
One day our association tilted sideways, like our fort. It happened when we hung around listening to our dads talking. Big Ricky’s dad bragged about shooting a deer out of season. It sounded like a heroic feat, until Big Ricky and his dad left and my father began to speak to me. Then I learned about the moral cornerstone: breaking the law is bad. I especially remember my father telling me how harmful this way of life would be to my friend Big Ricky.
Although I probably did not understand the full weight of my father’s comments, I did understand that Big Ricky’s dad was rejecting something important, and I felt glad to have a dad who followed the law and was aligned by a moral cornerstone.
In the Gospel we are reminded today that Jesus is our true cornerstone, the foundation of our lives (Matthew 21:33-46). His unique role is to be our connection to God. In many cultures cornerstones were laid with religious ceremonies, offering to God the stone that would serve as the compass for building a wall, a temple, or even a fort. All the remaining stones are lined up in relation to the one corner, at some correct angle. Every other stone goes out in alignment with this one stone, which serves as a compass to builders.
Jesus Christ— rejected, crucified, risen, and glorified— is our cornerstone. As our living cornerstone, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Many in the early church used the expression of “The Way” to describe their life in Christ. They followed Jesus as the Way, meaning that they followed his example, but even more important, they followed him through the Holy Spirit.
Like our forebears, we strive to orient ourselves to the living cornerstone by Walking the Way. For this reason, our theme for October and November is “Walking the Way of Praise,” as you will see in the Pentecost III magazine. We also use “Walking the Way” as a means of orienting our giving to the cornerstone, as these many posters declare.
Jesus is our cornerstone who aligns us to a life of gratitude and praise. We express our praise and gratitude by our generosity. As he gives so much to us and to all people, so Jesus inspires us to the same generosity of spirit, the same attitude of acceptance, and the same joyful giving.
Our annual giving, which begins today, does not concern the financial needs of the church, but rather our walking of the Way that orients our spiritual wellbeing. When we give of ourselves, when we donate our money, when we sacrifice our own opinions for the good of the whole, we affirm our orientation to the living stone which was rejected and has become the chief cornerstone of our lives: Jesus Christ.
My personal witness is that Andrea and I give generously to All Saints’ not to gain God’s approval, or to assuage any sense of guilt, or to make sure the church’s bills are paid, or even for the satisfaction of knowing we are doing the right thing. We will offer our pledge on All Saints’ Sunday again this year because we are inspired by gratitude, and choose to glorify Christ in and through All Saints’. I know many of you do the same, and the joy and praise increase as we orient our giving at a correct angle to Jesus our cornerstone, and thereby Walk the Way.
The Rev. Rick Matters preached at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Carmel