The following is a reflection on Matthew 21:33-46, the Gospel lesson appointed for October 2nd, 2011 according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 22, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Epistle lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the lessons of the day.
I love how Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, begins Psalm 118:
“Thank God because he’s good,
because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
‘His love never quits.’
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
‘His love never quits.’
And you who fear God, join in,
‘His love never quits.‘”
It’s a psalm of victory. And, even more than that it’s a psalm of victory in the face of insurmountable odds.
Odds, which in the hand of God, were overturned.
Why? Because love never quits.
Psalm 118 is said to be one of the psalms that was sung at the great festival of Tabernacles. All Israel would gather at the Temple in Jerusalem, wave branches of palm, and sing this song.
And, when they did they were reminded that at one time their ancestors didn’t have a land, or homes, or fields to tend because they were wandering in the desert. For one week out of the year they’d live in booths—or Tabernacles–living as their forebears did in the wilderness.
The whole people of Israel would have a great-national-camping-trip, and delve into the experience of those who went before them.
And they’d gather by the Temple waving their palms and sing this amazing song of the enduring love of God. This song about the stone that the masons rejected, which became the chief stone. They’d sing: “Hosanna, Lord, hosanna”—or as Peterson paraphrases it, “Salvation, now, GOD, Salvation now!”
So…there’s this time in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus broke this psalm out of his back pocket. He quoted this psalm/ song that all his listeners would have known so well from Tabernacles—and he said that HE was the stone that the builders rejected.
But, even with that rejection, the stone—Jesus—would one day become the chief cornerstone.
With Jesus, love would never end. It would always win.
And, salvation would come. Now.
There’s a tone of defiant-victory here that I just love. He’s going to die—horrifically, on a cross. The Son of God—God Incarnate—would breathe his last, and his corpse would be hastily laid in a tomb.
It would look like it was the end of the story. It would look like the enemies of God had won. By all accounts Jesus would lose, and the prevailing religious establishment of the day and the Roman Empire would appear to win. And win big.
But, in the end they would not have that victory. Because the tomb could not hold him. Death could not contain him. The cross would not be the last word.
The stone that the builders rejected had been exalted. And, Salvation? It has come.
Why? Because His love never quits.