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“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22)

The establishment of the United States capital on the banks of the Potomac River was the result of political compromise between the Federalist and the Republican factions of the early republic. The states of Maryland and Virginia relinquished land to form the District of Columbia with work on the new city beginning in 1791.  One year later, plans were made for a neoclassical presidential home on Pennsylvania Avenue. On October 13, 1792, the cornerstone of the building which would later become known as the White House was laid during a Masonic ceremony overseen by member George Washington who had selected the site. Supposedly the cornerstone went missing the following day, and no one has seen it since. Many attempts have been made to find it. In the 1940’s, then President Harry Truman renovated the building. The rooms were completely dismantled and rebuilt, and a new internal load-bearing steel frame was constructed inside the walls. During this time, a letter was found which uncovered the fact that the first stone was actually laid in the southwest corner of the building. One theory is that the cornerstone might have ended up between two stone walls in the Rose Garden, but so far, nothing has been found there. Its location remains an unsolved American mystery.

The cornerstone is one of a building’s most important pieces, since it is the first stone to be set and also determines the position of all the pieces to be laid afterwards. Cornerstones have been part of building structures for centuries. In the case of the White House cornerstone, it can be assumed that the piece was quite large in size and very heavy, since it was made out of Aquia sandstone from Virginia. Some imagine that the stone was inscribed by the founding fathers, while others believe there was a plate on top with the date it was established. Over time, cornerstones have often taken on the purpose of a ceremonial masonry stone. Usually set in a prominent location on the outside of a building –  these stones often contain inscriptions indicating the construction dates of the building, sometimes including the names of significant individuals.  In years past, a piece of the cornerstone would be hollowed out to act as a type of time capsule to contain artifacts from the era in which a particular building was built. In biblical times, a cornerstone was used as the foundation and standard upon which a building was constructed. Once in place, the rest of the building would conform to the angles and size of the cornerstone. In addition, if removed, the entire structure could collapse.

The Book of Isaiah makes many references to a coming Messiah. God prophesied through Isaiah that He would place a foundation stone in Jerusalem . . . “a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken” (Isaiah 28:16). Hundreds of years later, Jesus identified Himself as this stone: “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see” (Matthew 21:42). It’s amazing how the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter both reference the term of building stones to complete a nice thread that flows from the writing of a heavenly promise in the Old Testament to the New Testament gospel about the One whom a disciple knew personally. Peter provides a description that all who believe in Christ are “like ­living stones . . . being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5) which holds together as the one edifice of God’s people spread throughout the earth. The illustration of Jesus as the Cornerstone upon which the “household of God” was being built would have been well-understood by the early Christians. For those living in societies where people often built their own homes, using construction terminology to explain the priority of Jesus the Messiah as the cornerstone of the household of God provided a clear connecting point that would have made absolute sense. Just as the cornerstone is laid as a guide to line up the rest of the structure, we need to be sure that our life is in alignment with Christ and His teachings. Unlike the one at the White House, the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ will never disappear and is one we can be certain to safely build upon.

REFLECTION: Consider your preferences, experiences, traditions and values. Do they align your life to establish a cornerstone for your faith?  If not, how might you hit the reset button to readjust the substance of your journey with the teachings of Christ? In what ways can you better set an example for others to be “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20)?


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