Cornerstone: Living Stones (Spring, 2021)
Rejection comes in all forms: a relationship gone sour, a work project with failures along the way, hate for your principles...the list is endless. One of the most powerful things in my relationship with Jesus Christ is the knowledge that He was also rejected. That He is not some deity in the ether to be worshipped, but rather, came here to earth fully human. He experienced the rejection I feel but on a scale I cannot fathom. As He hung on the cross to die for my sins, He experienced hate from the very people He came to save. And, at the very end, the final blow in the form of being forsaken by His father.
I believe Jesus knew He would rise again, but can you imagine the feelings He had while going through this, the worst rejection any person has ever had to suffer? He understands the pain and what life looks like on the other side. When we hear words like ‘have faith’ or ‘it will all work out to God’s glory’ while going through a trial, it can feel like an empty promise. These are the times we feel most alone and vulnerable, but there is profoundly good news when we build lives on Jesus, the Cornerstone.
As I have been digging deeper into Jesus as Cornerstone this year, this profound image of an ancient building with a cornerstone has been one I think about frequently. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says ‘Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’ Scholars believe the rock Jesus would build his church has been identified as:
- Jesus himself and his work of salvation by dying for us on the cross,
- Peter as the first great leader in the church at Jerusalem,
- And the confession of faith that Peter gave and that all subsequent true believers would give.
In his letter to the Christians of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Peter goes on to describe what it looks like to live on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ:
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 1 Peter 2:5-6
Did you catch that? We are LIVING stones that form the walls of God’s spiritual temple. We aren’t just picked up from the ground and stacked into a wall to stay in the same spot as the structure decays. We have the incredible opportunity to be shaped, moved, and changed along the way. Through the infinite love of a father who named the stars and knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. Through the true love Jesus showed when He took our place on that cross rejected by people and forsaken by his father to rise again and take his seat at the right hand of God Almighty. Through our own rejections and victories as we face each day.
As if being a living stone is not enough, we are granted the honor to be holy priests in the temple. We become an everlasting testament as individual stones and as the church Jesus came to create; the church He left behind to share his good news with the world! Building a life on a firm foundation sets us in a place to love God and others well as we grow stronger through Jesus in our lives.
There is a flip side to Jesus as the Cornerstone. For those who reject him, Jesus becomes the rock that makes people stumble and, ultimately, fall. As someone who did not accept Jesus as my Lord until my late 30s, I can look back on my life and see this principle at work. By the world’s standard, I had achieved great things: a successful career, beautiful attire, popularity, a spacious and well-appointed home… At the same time, there was a deep void in my heart I tried to fill for many years with men and achievement. This void stemmed back to childhood abuse at the hands of a relative I trusted resulting in deep beliefs of unworthiness and shame. I believed in God, but not that he would care for someone as bad as me.
Over the span of one short week, three friends of mine who did not know each invited me to the same church. I took this as some sort of sign. Instead of going with one of my friends, I went that very Sunday by myself. As I sat at Crossroads that day, I listened to Brian Tome speak of this woman at a well (John 4:1-42). She was divorced five times and living with someone who was not her husband. She was despised by some women in her community and feared rejection by the rest. She would not even go to get water during the cool morning hours of the day for fear of ridicule and their piercing stares. She was me.
And then she met Jesus. He knew her inside and out and love her completely. He promised she would thirst no more with a never-ending supply of living water: He Himself. The woman left her water jar at the well, ran back to her town, and told everyone about what Jesus said to her. Her testimony changed the lives of many people that day as the went to meet Jesus, too. I wept with strangers after hearing her story as I finally stopped tripping over Jesus and decided to build my life upon Him. Living stones need living water and I am forever grateful for Jesus’ love of me at my worst and my best.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9
As I was building the enamel, sterling silver, and gold flecked pieces for this first series release of Cornerstone, I kept thinking about how God works through my life to reach others with the blemishes and all. This is the first time I have really dug in to working with an enameling technique called cloisonne. To make these pieces, I started with pieces of fine silver and fired a couple layers of enamel onto the front and back. Then, I bent the tiniest wires into forms and fired them into a layer of enamel with the kiln along with embossed silver elements and bits of 24 karat gold.
This process reminded me so much of how God works in my life to build up character through careful application of experiences and feelings. Some are delicate and beautiful. Some are uncomfortably hot fires that refine from the inside out. From this point, I added delicious spring colors with small brushes and several more trips to the kiln. The result is a collection of six one-of-a-kind pieces of art jewelry. Available now here.
Someone once told me that art is a story we tell and that others add to. I would love to hear what you think about these pieces 😊
Blessings to you and yours,
Chris Cravens, Artist
P.S. As I work through this, I'll be releasing work in small batches with a corresponding blog post. If you would like to see them all, they are linked together with the tag 'Cornerstone' available here.