Great Line!

How many movie lines do you have memorized?

I’ll be back. 

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

Show me the money!

Do you ever find yourself quoting a movie line to make a joke, or to explain yourself, or simply to change the subject?

In Jesus’ day, there were no movies. No books.  No common, inside jokes (except very localized ones).  Because of illiteracy, the only things most folks knew were from memory.  And, essentially, the only words people in that time memorized on a large scale, as a group, were Holy Scripture and/or songs.

In our Gospel reading for Sunday, Jesus tells a pretty grim parable.  And after the parable is given, he asks the listeners to interpret his words.  They do. And then Jesus does some interpreting, too.   In Matthew 22:42, Jesus quotes Psalm 118, a great psalm his listeners would all know for its use in temple worship, as one of six psalms that comprised what is known as Judaism as the Hallel. The Hallel, Psalms 113 to 118, is similar to the Great Thanksgiving—a sort of super-duper thanksgiving litany.  To this day, in Judaism, on all festival days, these psalms are recited in their entirety, with the final ten verses of Psalm 118 being recited twice each.

And so Jesus ends his parable with recitation of a commonly-quoted thanksgiving to those who are hostile to him.  More than simply a great line, this portion of Psalm 118 was reintrepreted by Jesus to point to himself.  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes.”

God, you made your only Son to be rejected so that we might be included.  Pretty amazing.  Amen.


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