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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

March 3, 2024: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

Sunday, March 3, 2024:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone

The Rejected

In the first reading from Genesis, we read the story of Joseph. He’s the favored son of Israel and is gifted the coat of many colors from his dad - showing his favor.  Jealousy overtakes his brothers and we’re told, “When [they] saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.” They go on to plot to kill him but, ultimately, sell him to a traveling band of merchants. Eventually the arc of the story is such that Joseph - the rejected one - becomes a central figure in the salvation of his family and is responsible for their survival.


And in the gospel, Jesus tells a parable about tenants on a plot of land who harm and kill the servants of the landowner who are sent to collect the rent. The landowner finally sends his son thinking that the tenants would at least respect him. But they do not, and kill the son too. The Pharisees and other religious leaders understand the meaning of the parable. They are furious and want to arrest him but are afraid of his popularity with the crowd.


Jesus cites the Hebrew scriptures (Psalm 118) and reminds his listeners that “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”


Jesus’ words today echo a theme we hear time and time again in the Judeo-Christian scriptures - that the rejected and marginalized will be central and essential. This is true in the actual sense as well as in the spiritual sense.


What do I mean by this?


In the actual sense, the biblical vision is that the ones in our world who are rejected, marginalized and outcast will find a place at the center of the kin-dom of God. In fact, they are essential to its emergence because they have already worked to develop ways of relating that are more inclusive than the status quo.


Mia Birdsong in her fantastic book How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship and Community speaks about the current state of America and how we are operating in systems of white supremacy and capitalism.  In an interview about the book, she says that in order  “to achieve the American Dream, you must adopt characteristics that crush your own sense of connection to others, that promote extraction and hierarchy, which means denying love, intimacy and care.


She goes on to say that, “If you are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), queer, poor, transgender, unpartnered, unhoused, a sex worker, a person with disabilities, or marginalized in any number of ways, you have less access to the standard of success and happiness as defined by the American Dream.

It’s among those groups of people that I’ve seen the most inclusive, connected, loving, nurturing, creative and expansive practices of family, friendship and community. It’s in part because we’ve had to survive systems and a dominant culture that actively oppresses us, and our most powerful resource is each other. It’s also because we are closer to our ancestral knowledge of how interdependence and connectedness work. If we look to those models, they give us examples of what’s possible.”


My guess is that Jesus would concur - which is why at pretty much every point in his life and ministry he is aligning with, associating with and being alongside the outsiders. He probably felt much more at home in their company, because their ways of relating most closely mirrored that of God’s kin-dom.


The Rev. Dr. William Barber II, national co-leader of the modern Poor People’s Campaign says that it is always the rejected who then go on to lead the “revival for love and justice” and that unless the rejected are at the center, we will not be able to find our way out of the many social problems that we face. Their vision and experience hold the key to our collective healing.


This is, of course, good news for those who have been rejected. It is not quite welcomed news for those who benefit from the status quo or are invested in its perpetuation.


At a spiritual level, the rejected parts of us also hold the key to our wholeness and healing. The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, observed that the “rejected” parts of ourselves go underground inside of us and become “the shadow.” Since the shadow is outside of our consciousness, however, we do not work to integrate, listen to or understand those energies.


Thus we remain fragmented and unwhole - perhaps “looking good” on the outside but inside filled with very toxic energies that eventually find their way out. Jung also said that until the unconscious shadow is brought into the center of awareness where we can deal with it, the unhealed parts of ourselves will be directing our actions.


Our readings remind us today that in order to be whole people, we must let in all the parts of us that have been rejected and welcome them into the center because they hold a key to our well being. Similarly, those who have been rejected by the wider society hold the key to our collective wellness and must be given a central place in order for us to align more closely with God’s vision for the world.


Moreover, the promise of our scriptures is that the poor and rejected WILL become the cornerstone. The question might be, “To what extent will we cooperate with and support it?” In any ways that you can this week, bring to the center what was previously on the margins and privilege that perspective in your decision making.


A reflection by Mike Boucher of Spiritus Christi


Here's a Q&A With Mia Birdsong, Author Of ‘How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship And Community’.

She writes: "We are in an abusive relationship with our country and I hope that more of us get the courage and support we need so we can choose something different."

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