Cursing Stone and Cornerstone

The Carlisle Cursing Stone/Good Friday

Sometimes as a teacher you get to the end of a term, and you could so easily inherit the title , ‘Prince of Thieves’ or at worst the label Fagin. Some of the gifts that come your way from thankful little hearts are gifts that quite obviously have not been purchased by the child in a shop; taken perhaps , but not bought!

One such gift is one I actually did keep; I think it originated from Strettle Bros yard: (gravestone manufacturers!), a small triangular yard which used to be opposite the Central School. It is a beautiful piece of black marble, with a lovely picture of Jesus crucified on the cross engraved upon it.

It must have been very difficult for this child to get back over the fence with this one, it’ so heavy.

I imagine that the ‘Cursing’ Stone of Carlisle has the same kind of art work on it as this.

The Cursing Stone is a massive 14-tonne granite stone sculpture, intended as a community art project, and it has been at the centre of a big controversy in Carlisle recently.

It was created by Carlisle-born artist Gordon Young, and it now stands at the centre of the city, near its castle.

There is unfortunately a 1,069-word curse inscribed upon it, penned by a bishop, and the curse was originally levelled at "Reiver families", who raided Carlisle and other parts of the far north of England from just over the border in Scotland in the 16th century.

"Many groups and individuals have warned the council that the placing of this non-Christian artifact, covered in curses, would bring ill luck to the city, so the local council has recently been voting whether to keep it or destroy it. Some say it is responsible for a string of unfortunate happenings in Carlisle…

Since the work of art was installed…

*the city has suffered the worst local flooding for more than a century,

*an outbreak of livestock disease foot and mouth

*a rash of local job losses as factories closed.

*Even the city's beloved football team, Carlisle United, has endured their own famine of goals, leading them to be relegated from the Football League.

At a recent council meeting, it was agreed almost unanimously to keep the stone in place.

I can’t understand why they couldn’t come to a compromise and perhaps commission the same artist to grind this stone down and sculpt another similar stone with a ‘Beatitudes’ inscription instead, a stone of ‘blessing’. Then everyone would be happy, and no longer would people have to be repeating the curse whenever they view it read its words.

Local pagans and witches must be delighted with this verdict.

But a similar controversy raged over a ‘ stone’ many years ago in Jerusalem, a stone described as a Cornerstone.

Matthew tells us that Jesus used this term to apply to himself:

‘The stone the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.’(Matt 21.42) in other words the main and most important stone in a building, the one that holds everything in place.

The religious leaders of the day saw this man Jesus who identified himself as the Cornerstone, as someone they would clearly have to get rid of. Not all agreed, many looked on him and loved what they saw. He was all that was good and true and of God.

Some were asking themselves was he the One who was to come?

When Jesus successfully raised Lazarus from the dead and entered into Jerusalem in such triumph and to such a welcome, the leaders could see that here was a problem that was not going to go away. They would have to act.

The great disturbance in the temple, when Jesus overturned the tables of the money lenders was the last straw; he had gone too far.

Not only had he broken the law by healing on the Sabbath; it was thought he was of the ‘devil’;

He assumed the place of God by forgiving people their sins, he quite publicly defied them and denounced them as hypocrites.

He had challenged their authority time and time again. By allowing him his freedom, his followers had increased to the extent that it seemed the whole world was going after him, and believing in his power to save them.

He had to go! Politically he was poison to them.

Their council leader proposed that this man had to be destroyed, in order to save a whole nation, and so they planned to get rid of him, as soon someone could deliver him into their hands.

Their decision to get rid of him, was almost unanimous.

The LAW demanded perfection and obedience, and Jesus fell way short in their eyes, but what they could not see was his perfection, and their imperfection.

Here was the second Adam ‘to the fight and to the rescue’….someone who would be offering himself ONCE as a sacrifice for all, to cancel out the curse of sin which the first Adam brought upon us through his disobedience. And they just could not see it!

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, helps us to see that we are cursed if we rely on the law to save us. For according to their interpretation of the law, if we fail to keep one part of it, we have failed to keep all of it. Rather like to burst one small part of a balloon is to burst all of it! The way the leaders interpreted the law and broken it down into hundreds of petty rules had become a millstone around people’s necks

Paul explained that it is only by faith in Jesus that we can be saved; through being cleansed by his blood, and receiving forgiveness.

We cannot enter the kingdom of God, by simply trying to be good, but by believing

To Jesus the law was meant to be written on people’s hearts, not on stone.

So he became that CURSING STONE for us, to be ground down and demolished, for our sakes

In Christ we become a new creation, the old has gone completely, the NEW has come!

We are no longer under the curse of sin, for he became the curse instead for each one of us!

He became a burden for us, who and what will we carry for him?

GALATIANS 3. 10-13

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written,

‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21.23)’

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.