Copyright November 1999, Stela Stoilova, All Rights Reserved

The Stone which the builders rejected

Lord God,
In your creation you span the distances of space and time;
You hold the universe in the hollow of your hand.
You have brought us forth in the evolution of your purpose,
you have made Christ the very expression of your mind, the stamp of your authority.
Where will your mastery end ?

Not with our rejection.
Even that brings only
resurrection, and new life.

"You really are just like your fathers, said Jesus to some of his questioners, they stoned the prophets, and you.." I've heard many a lecture that implied that we Christians, having by definition accepted Christ, may feel some satisfaction about these  words. But, looking at history, I have to say that Jesus was not commenting on anything that was particularly Jewish when he said these words. He was pointing at something remarkably human.

Nearly everyone who has ever been slightly different, more, or differently intelligent, creative, sensitive, beautiful or ugly, has experienced bullying and separation in the playing field. On the whole, however, we don't grow up to be any different from those who rejected us at school. Perhaps it's a learning experience in more than one way. Whether we learn isolation, put up walls, learn to fit in, learn not to be different or learn to be 'eccentric' we can at the same time think of this as 'scarring' but ignore the fact that in God's eyes this is not supposed to be normal.

Certainly those who are truly, totally different, the saints and masters, do have disciples, followers and admirers throughout their lives. They are also hampered at every turn - and many of them are assassinated, often completely legally. A few, having been sent out into the wilderness, are totally acceptable, not being troublesome at home, as it were. Then, within a few years, when we think we have learned what they had to teach us, we acknowledge their giant and heroic stature and call them 'our Fathers' .

And the big puzzle is that we do share the same genetic heritage as Amos, Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Plato, Mother Shipton, Joan of Arc, Father Tom and the Cure d'ars. Jesus called himself 'the son of man'. Even more strangely - we love them, even when they are alive. Love and reject at the same time.

"Why do you want to kill me?" says Jesus. "You have a demon, " is the reply, "nobody wants to kill you".  And it is quite possible that people don't. But look what happens ?

What is truly unbearable about these people is the way they make us see a whole pattern. As if their lives were the jigsaw pieces that make a mess of colours into a picture. And maybe we can't bear the implications of that picture. That what we live by - the stories that excuse our selfishness and misbehaviour - the harshness of our childhoods, the need for our closedness, the very things that make us special, are revealed as being somehow shabby and unworthy of us.

We think that we would go out of our way to help Amos, that had we been there we wouldn't have killed Jesus, wouldn't have stood by and allowed St. Joan of Arc to die. How would we have stood up to St. Vincent de Paul if he asked us to take a prostitute into our houses ? How long do we stand up to the Civic Councillors who want to clear kids off the streets ?

I have to comfort myself somehow. But how can the world be different when we are not? I suspect that for all these 'giants' things began small. A little protest here, a small piece of reasoning there. And then as the adoration comes, and the new freedom, so come the objections, and the committees, and the reflections and  the assessments and the political realities. So the hounding begins, and the shielding of the hero from those who most need him. Every time we make a law we are shielding someone or something from justice.

And yet - we look back upon our civilization and rightly take pride.  We are the children of Abraham, and of Sarah - we count Plato in our spiritual heritage, we count off the saints - we try to be like them.  the common sense of God has a way of making us all look terribly complicated. Feed the hungry, visit the sick, hunger and thirst for what is right - and I'll look after your family, your food, your comfort. What he can't provide is acceptance, kindness, security in the human sense. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you - not because you are a poisonous, uppity self righteous prat, but because you are making peace, and clothing the naked.

and truly - gradually - as leaven changes the nature of the bread - the lives and stories of these people change our basic way of life.

The stone that the builders rejected, is become the cornerstone, from which all else is measured.

everybody looks slick and, underneath tans and wigs, somewhat lonely, I mean, they're not relating, Jesus. They're only observing the still protocol of small talk and ground rules. This informal gathering is as rigid as the court of Louis XIV, only the accents here are of Detroit, Houston, and Los Angeles.

The masks are on parade tonight, Jesus. The masks are smiling and laughing to cover up status anxieties and bleeding ulcers.

Tell us about freedom, Jesus.

Malcom Boyd

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