1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 4: 8-12
Acts show us just how radically Jesus’ followers have been transformed by His risen presence. Before, fear ruled their behavior; now they are courageous. They boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen; in that process they too enter into the cycle of dying and rising. Only the power of the risen Christ and his Spirit could bring about such a profound change in their lives. (Birmingham, W& W Workbook, 376)
The word for cornerstone in Greek could be more correctly translated as the head of a corner or the capstone or keystone. When building arches, Romans first constructed the two sides of the arch; the last stone to be set in place was the capstone which joined the sides assuring stability and endurance. This capstone was a powerful symbol for Christ for the early Christians. (Celebration, May 2003)
The name of a person is more than just an artificial ‘tag’ to tell one person from another. A name represents the fullness of a person. If we do something in someone’s name, we do it as that person would do it. As a Christian we are to act as Christ, to act in his name. To live this way is to find salvation (fullness of health). Salvation in the name of Jesus is not a ‘magic thing.’ It is a way of life. It is a way of love.
2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-2
We are children of God. By nature we are a creatures of God, but it is by grace that we are children of God. It is like comparing paternity and fatherhood (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 73-74). It is one thing to be created, and something entirely endearing and intimate to family. We are called into this kind of relationship to God. How do we answer? How does God reveal Godself to you? When you sense this, do you feel more like a child of God? Take some prayful time to sit with these words and mull the questions.
The Gospel– John 10: 11-18
Imagine the scene. It is first-century Palestine. Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing only to return to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance. At day’s end the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night: wolves and thieves. Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheepgate so no one could enter without having to pass him first. He was the protector of the flock – with his very life if need be. Each morning all the shepherds would return to this enclosure. Each shepherd would whistle or call out the names of their sheep. The sheep would know the sound of their own shepherd – they would not respond to anyone else. Their shepherd would then lead them out to safely graze in the pasture; the sheep always followed their shepherd,
Jesus is the model Good Shepherd. He cares for his sheep; they know his voice and respond to his voice. There is ownership. Jesus knows his sheep; he knows them by name. He is in loving relationship with them, willing to lay down his life for their good. We are to know Jesus’ voice and trust him unto death.
The early church adopted this image of shepherd for their leaders also. Like Christ, the leaders were to nourish and safeguard the flock. The word pastor was derived from this image. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Yr B, 378- 379)
1ST READING – ISAIAH 5:1-7
Isaiah realized that God cares for us His people like a precious vine: He cultivates us, cares for us, prunes us, nurtures us, waters us and removes the stones from our hearts. He expects us to grow, to bloom, to produce a good harvest. Why is the Lord angry with His people?
Those darn Israelites never seem to get it right. Can you relate? Do you ever feel like you try so hard and yet can’t seem to get it together? Sometimes children work hard on an assignment and end up crumpling it up because of their frustration. We hear the frustration in God’s voice through Isaiah. This harsh love language can be difficult because of the strong emotion. But in the end, God stays with the Israelites through their trials.
Some thoughts from Harold Kushner in How Good Do We Have to Be?: “…if we cannot love imperfect people, if we cannot forgive them for their exasperating faults, we will condemn ourselves to a life of loneliness, because imperfect people are the only kind we will ever find,” (p. 111). “Being human can never mean being perfect, but it should always mean struggling to be as good as we can and never letting our failures be a reason for giving up the struggle,” (p. 174).
2ND READING – PHILIPPIANS 4: 6-9
Paul encouraged his Philippian brothers and sisters and urged tenacity in prayer. Worry drains us of energy and hope. Not that he was suggesting a Pollyannaish approach to life either. Paul knew how hard life was. There was a large military presence in the area, and the Gentile Christians also had a difficult time dealing with the Jewish Christians. “What is the right thing to do?” was a constant question. So Paul says pray, and will peace will be given. Do you experience this in your prayer life? Even if there is no answer, prayer reminds us of God’s constant presence, and there is solace in that. Paul also says hold fast to Jesus’ teachings. Hold on to what is true. There is peace in that too. Do you experience this?
THE GOSPEL – MATTHEW 21: 33-43
From Pheme Perkins’ Hearing the Parables of Jesus:
This parable is a striking image of escalating violence in a situation in which the social and legal structures were clearly too weak to deal with what could and did occur among people. The people who suffer its consequences are very often not the ones who are responsible for the socio-economic causes of the violence. The people who suffer from it are those who are close at hand and weak enough to appear vulnerable. Humans may use violence and vengeance to deal with situations of injustice; God will not. The tenants must turn around, stop their own illegal violence, and give the owner what he is owed. One must simply continue to pursue the relationship that should exist between oneself and the other party, hoping that the other party will then step into the role defined by that relationship. God continually appeals to the people to stand in the proper relationship with him, but he will never compel them to do so (p. 192-194).
This parable ends with an image of a cornerstone. This picture is from Psalm 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” Originally the psalmist meant this as a picture of the nation of Israel. But Jesus is the foundation stone on which everything is built, and the corner stone which holds everything together. It may be that people reject Christ, but they will yet find that the Christ whom they rejected is the most important person in the world, (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Mathew Vol 2, p. 264-5). Jesus is all about seeking relationship and bringing goodness to fruition. At what lengths will you go to to seek relationship with Jesus and bring good to fruition?