This has been a busy week and Matt didn’t bother to wake me up this morning, which is super shocking and terrible of him. So I only have time for not even a paragraph. But, as I’ve been stewing along about the Enneagram for the last six weeks, I’ve been sitting on something abominable that Richard Rohr said. There were so many things, I let most of them go by me, trying to stick to the main thing. But the one I’ve been stewing over is relevant this morning because, in the gospel reading for today, Jesus says this:
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
This is the ending bit of a terrible story Jesus tells, one that makes all the people who hate him hate him even more. And it’s passion week, so that’s very complicated. The story, if you didn’t make it to church, and don’t have time to read your bible, is about the Master of the Vineyard leasing the vineyard to tenants who turn out to be awful. When it’s time for them to pay up, the Master sends servants to collect what is owed, but the tenants kill those servants and then kill the son of Master—seriously, you’ll just have to go read the story because I can’t tell it as well as Jesus does.
Anyway, at the end of the story comes the cornerstone bit, and generations of Christians—because Jesus comes out and says it right here—know that Jesus is the cornerstone. You don’t have to do any big and wonderful exegesis to figure that out. You don’t have to fuss over whether you’re reading the Bible literally or metaphorically or obtusely or anything. Jesus is the cornerstone. And when you reject him, you’re rejecting the Master himself. There’s no way to have the Vineyard, and a relationship with the Master, or anything at all, without accepting that Jesus is the Stone–the key bit that matters. If you go on rejecting him, you will be crushed, forever.
I mean, obviously, the cornerstone is a metaphor. Jesus isn’t a literal stone, just like he wasn’t a physical sheep gate or a well or a grapevine—he’s a man. And yet, the metaphor of the stone is quite powerful, because of the way it is worked through the entirety of scripture, and because of all the other metaphors relating to the church that flow out of it.
So anyway, in his book on the Enneagram (and I am so sorry about not having a quote, I was listening to it on audible, and I can’t go listen to the whole thing again or I will literally perish) Richard Rohr says that the cornerstone is really the thing about you that you don’t like, that you’re prepared to reject, but that if you throw it away, your personality will fall to ruin. You are your own cornerstone—or some key element of your personality is—and you need to accept yourself. That’s what the cornerstone is.
I was racing along listening to the book, trying to do a thousand things all at once, but my jaw absolutely dropped. By the time I’d finally found a pen to write anything down, he had gone on to say this:
Faith in the biblical sense does not mean maintaining that certain assertions are true, rather it is a relationship of trust between humanity and God. God believes in us. This is the basis on which we can believe in God, without thereby losing our human dignity. God trusts us and hopes that we will return the compliment. Because God has confidence in us, we can develop healthy self-confidence.
I just want to point out, before I rush on to the next thing (church), that that is a lie from the pit of hell. You shouldn’t have any confidence in yourself. Look at those awful workers in the vineyard who believed in themselves—they believed so much in themselves that when the Son of the Master came, they killed him. And the Son of the Master turned out to be the Son of God, the Cornerstone, the only one who could reconcile them to the Master whom they had so offended.
One of the deeply troubling things, to me, about where Christianity is taking itself (the annual Evolving Faith Conference is going on this weekend) is that it unwittingly—I mean, I don’t really think anyone is trying to be bad—adopts secular categories of self-love and reads them back into the text without questioning anything at all. It’s a strange kind of fundamentalism, whereby the Bible is rendered completely incoherent.
So anyway, you’re not the cornerstone. And you don’t need to tap into your shadow side. And you don’t need to believe in yourself. All you need to do is look to Jesus and accept him as he is. That’s hard enough without adding a lot of heresy over the top of it.