O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then he called down famine over the land
and broke every staff of bread.
But he had sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They shackled his feet with fetters;
his neck was ringed with iron.
Until all he foretold came to pass,
the word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of peoples set him free.
He appointed him lord of his household
and ruler of all he possessed,
To instruct his princes as he willed
and to teach his counsellors wisdom.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Matthew 21.33-43, 45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
‘Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Have you ever struggled with a really difficult jigsaw? The sort of jigsaw that has many, many pieces that all seem to be the same colour. The sort of jigsaw that makes you want to give up. The sort of jigsaw that takes great determination to complete. Do you remember the feeling when the piece that you have put to one side time and time again suddenly slots into place? Do you remember the times when the most inconsequential piece turned out to be the one that unlocked the mysteries of that really difficult jigsaw? Today’s reading presents us with a similar situation in our spiritual lives.
Jesus speaks to the chief priests and elders of the Jewish community about a landowner who entrusted his vineyard to tenants. He clearly gave them the freedom to use his land in the way they perceived to be the best for themselves. When the harvest came and the landowner sought his share of the output from his land his messengers were attacked and killed. Even the landowner’s own son was killed in the misplaced belief that this would leave the tenants in possession and control of the land.
Those who heard Jesus’ parable would have understood that the landowner’s messengers represented the prophets, whilst being less certain about who Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the ‘son’. Of course, we know that the ‘son’ in the parable was Jesus himself, the Son of God.
Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was rejected, and yet he was the very piece missing from the confusing and complicated jigsaw of human life. Like the cornerstone that fixes the other stones in place, despite its odd shape, Jesus is that final piece of the jigsaw that completes the picture.
We may feel that we know all the answers and that we can stand on our own two feet. We may feel that it doesn’t matter if we throw up our hands in despair and pursue our own aims and ambitions in our own way but, in reality, it matters a lot. God has given humanity the most amazing creation in which to live out its mortal existence. But, God expects to see that creation make a difference to our spiritual selves. God wants us to continue struggling with the jigsaw of life until we complete the picture in joy and thanksgiving.
Let us pray for the perseverance to continue on our Lenten pilgrimage. Let us also pray for the humility to recognize that even the oddest and most challenging of words from God may be the very one that completes the picture and brings us into his divine and consoling presence.
Prayers of Intercession
In the power of the Son, let us pray to God who governs all in heaven and earth.
Inspire your Church always to press forward to the goal to which she is called. Make all her members faithful servants of your will.
Look with mercy on a world when the greed of gain deprives many of their rights. Guide those in authority to govern by the true values of your Kingdom.
In all our dealings with others, teach us not to trust our own desires but to follow where Christ has led. Make us honest in our work, seeking the good of others.
Have mercy on those who have been made poor by the dishonesty of others. Relieve their needs and give them the hope of renewal in your purpose for them.
We give thanks for those who have come by the power of Christ to the resurrection of the dead. Grant that we shall not lose through sin our inheritance in your eternal Kingdom.
We offer our prayers, entreating that we may be faithful inheritors of the Kingdom.
Prayer for the week
Lord Christ, who came to call
not the righteous but sinners to repentance:
help us in this season of Lent
to hear and respond to your call;
that by your grace
we may turn from whatever in our lives
is at variance with your will,
and walk in the way of holiness and love,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Christ is our corner-stone,
on him alone we build;
with his true saints alone
the courts of heaven are filled:
on his great love
our hopes we place
of present grace
and joys above.
Here may we gain from heaven
the grace which we implore;
and may that grace, once given,
be with us evermore,
until that day
when all the blest
to endless rest
are called away.
John Chandler (1806–1876), based on Angularis fundamentum lapis Christus missus est (Latin, before 9th century)