One of the few original story plots of the world is said by experts to be that of Cinderella.
It reappears among all peoples and in many forms.
It is essentially the story of the rejected stone which by a strange romance becomes the very head of the corner – the most important of all.
It’s the story of the ugly duckling which grew into a beautiful swan, of the girl in the cinders who became the princess, of the frog which became a prince.
And its place in the world’s story-book rests ultimately on its sure place in human experience.
Now here at the end of the parable that Jesus tells about the killing the heir of the vineyard owner, he quotes from the Psalms:
‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all’
It’s an old theme, but a relevant one for it interprets for us the place of Christ in history.
And it will occur again and again in the Early Church – it seems to have been one of their favourite proof texts.
In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter addressing the high priests says
‘This is the stone which was rejected by you builders but which has become the head of the corner’
Further, in the first letter of Peter the same theme will be used as well:
‘Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.
To you, therefore, who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe the very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’
What a perfect allegory this is.
Think for a moment of a building site. You can visualise men working on it. There are bricks and stones and slabs of concrete lying about. Planks of wood stained with dried-up concrete and mud are leaning against half completed walls.
The site is a sea of mud at present, and you have difficulty picturing the fine avenue of houses promised in the brochure.
We’ve all seen building sites; we all know what they’re like.
This one is no jerry-built row of houses being erected, but a dignified, solid, even artistic stone edifice.
And this calls for a qualified stonemason who knows his job.
So you see him on the scaffolding testing every stone before it is grouted into the building.
He feels its weight, observes its shape, taps it to hear its ring (and therefore its soundness) for the wall that he is constructing.
At one point, there comes into his hands a stone which looks attractive but fails his tests – so he rejects it.
The last you see of that stone is as a reject, tossed onto the scaffold-board where it bumps off onto the ground below – ending on the rubbish heap.
But, wait, this isn’t the end of this miserable stone. A while later, a more expert craftsman happens to pass that way, and seeing the stone, examines it.
A smile of satisfaction passes over his face. What a stone! What a find!
And, far from ending its life as mere hardcore for some motorway, that stone gets incorporated by the master builder into the chief corner position of a new building on which he is engaged.
So the Cinderella once despised and rejected becomes the princess, exalted and revered and honoured.
All through his life on earth, the worth was not apparent. From the beginning there was no room for him in Bethlehem’s inn. At the apparent end, his own disciples deserted him.
His own people received him not.
He was despised, rejected, crucified.
And…then… the transformation. Resurrection, new life, new power, new potential. For him….for his followers.
And because of the risen and glorified Christ, we too can look forward in hope.
Jesus Christ is not at the periphery of life – but right up there stage centre, the focal point, the keystone that holds the whole structure together
What society needs is a strong foundation and a chief corner stone. Christ was rejected, yes, but on the third day he rose again. The thought of this triumph and what it means for us and can do for us is what we should carry into the grey days of the coming week