Isaiah 28.14-16, Psalm 119.89-96, Ephesians 2.19-22, John 15.17-27
In Jesus Christ the Cornerstone, John W. Schoenheit explains as follows:
In the ancient world, the cornerstone was the most important stone in the building. It set the level, angle, and outer dimensions of the building. It had to be level and squared true so that all the other stones could be set from it… Nowadays, if a boulder is in an inconvenient place, we just blow it apart with dynamite. The large stones in the foundation and walls of buildings could only be set in place by armies of men working under the orders of the king… But the cornerstone could not be a freshly cut, untested stone that might fracture under the weight of what it supports. The stone God laid as the foundation, His only Son, was precious to Him, and tested over and over in the crucible of life (Isaiah 28:16).
The Epistles…added other analogies that gave even more depth and richness to the “stone” analogy in the Old Testament. Romans 8 clarified that it was indeed the entire creation that would be founded upon Christ. Also, God made it clear that just as the Messiah is the cornerstone, the Christian Church is the Temple itself (1 Corinthians 3:16), and each Christian is a living stone (1 Peter 2:5). The Church is being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). As we read about the Cornerstone in the New Testament, it is important to notice that Psalm 118:22 is quoted five times (the three in the Gospels are referenced above). It is clear that as well as placing an emphasis on Jesus as the cornerstone of God’s foundation, God emphasizes the fact that people will reject him. (See Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7 ).
Although many people reject Christ outright, there is another, more subtle, way that people reject him. That more subtle way is when a person takes Jesus Christ as the foundation of his life, but then in practice rejects him. We do this when we build upon Christ according to our will and pleasure, rather than building according to God’s plans and in obedience to the Word of God. ..It is not enough to just have a foundation; each Christian needs to build upon it in a way that is pleasing to God.
Nothing is truer than God’s statement that, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus Christ is God’s foundation stone, and capstone, for mankind and the universe.
Structural engineering has moved on, however, since these words were written, as John Schoenheit hints. The advice that everyone remembers from Matthew’s gospel (7.26) that one should not build one’s house upon the sand has been cheerfully ignored by the architects who vie with each other to build ever taller skyscrapers directly onto sand in the Arabian Gulf. It has been explained to me that, so long as sand is properly enclosed, it is an exceptionally hard and stable basis for building foundations.
W H Auden tried to express the same idea of the centrality one person can have in the lives of others in his well-known poem:
…my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
In other words, my ‘foundation and my cornerstone’.
But death removed Auden’s compass, just as a hurricane, tsunami, bomb or earthquake can and does remove the physical foundations of a building. If you visualise Christ as an external cornerstone or foundation of your faith, then if you have a separate existence, your faith and relationship with God may be at the whim of other sorts of hurricane.
I reviewed Tim Ross ‘s book ‘The Nearest‘ in which he says:
In the stories of Jesus stilling storms he does not transport the disciples to the safety of the shore; in one account he comes to them from the shore, whilst in the other he is already in the same boat with them, but in neither account does he whisk them away from the storm. He saves us not by removing us from the world, but by being with us, sharing in all that we experience, and by healing and restoring us where we are. Surely this is what we should take to form the basis for a model of Christian spirituality. God is no longer remote, up there, The Furthest, but in Jesus he is Emmanuel, God with you, The Nearest. Now he is nearer to you than the storm. He is in the same boat with you. He is infinitely nearer to you even than a quiet-time.
The Christian writer George MacDonald puts it like this:
When God’s will is thy heart’s pole,
Then is Christ thy very soul.
I know many people take comfort in the story about the footprints in the sand. But this still imagines Christ as an external presence. What does his promise ‘And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world‘ mean unless he is, literally, within us. What else is the symbolism of the Eucharist but God within us?
As the Sarum Primer has it, ‘God be in my head, and in my understanding‘:
The main illustration is a cornerstone by Kerry Garvey via Shutterstock.