March 18, 2016




SCRIPTURE: LUKE 19:28-40  

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'"
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord needs it."
Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop."
He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

It is nearly twenty years since I moved to Swampscott, Massachusetts, a small seaside town where houses jostle for views of the ocean. There are beaches here; one in particular is part of my neighborhood. I walk there. It was one of the things I first loved about the town when I came- the opportunity to walk the beach.
It is not that big, and much of it would not be comfortable for sunbathing. It has large pebbles and stones where you might have wished for sand. Too lumpy and hard for sunbathing, but a treasure nonetheless. These stones are rounded, worn smooth with the tumbling they have known in the rolling sea. They are colorful too. I called it the Easter egg beach before I knew its proper name. I call it that still, in my mind. The stones have spots and stripes, and swirls of color. Red, grey, brown, black, white and other shades in between. I loved to walk the beach, pick the stones up and fondle them, like prayer stones. But I would always put them back. Somehow they seemed to belong to the place and not to me, the newcomer.
One day I was walking the beach when I saw a couple I knew, retired folk, who were members of the church. In fact she had been part of the church her whole life- grown up in it, and he had been a part since they’d met as adolescents. Both of them had lived in Swampscott their whole lives.
They hadn’t noticed me, so engrossed were they in what they were doing. They were picking stones. They walked the beach lifting one and then another, rolling them in their hands, examining them together and then gently putting them in the bag they were carrying, or just as gently placing them back upon the damp and salty ground. I was astonished, and impressed. After sixty five or seventy years of walking on the beach, they still felt the magic of the beautiful stones, still felt compelled to pick them up, hold them, admire them, and take a few really special ones home to live with them. I envied them, and hoped that my sense of wonder and deep appreciation would survive as had theirs, into the years of my retirement and beyond. Many years later I spoke with the woman about that day. She acknowledged that she feels something special, something sacred and holy within those stones.
So when I read this Luken passage, so familiar as a Palm Sunday text, I am pulled away from the familiar focus on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and drawn instead to the often forgotten words he speaks.
When the crowds are gathering and cheering, waving their palms, shouting their Hosannas, the Pharisees, annoyed at the noise and the commotion say: "Teacher, order your disciples to stop."
He answered, "I tell you, if these (the people) were silent, the stones would shout out." (Luke 19:40 )
And I am startled. Jesus ministry is so focused on righting human relationships, and on righting those human relationships with God, that it is rare for him, in his three short years of ministry to pay any attention to the natural world. Yet it seems, from his simple comment, that he does have an understanding of the relationship between the physical world, and God, the Creator.

Consider; we have an extraordinary drama playing out here in Jerusalem. Jesus is pretty sure his days are numbered. He has plans for his Passover dinner with his disciples, and then he will bite the proverbial bullet and encounter the authorities who would silence him. He will see it through. But at the beginning of the unfolding of this passion narrative he cites the stones as his witness. Should the message be squelched and the disciples silenced, the stones would cry out.
Jesus is not traveling alone. He travels authorized and companioned. As a prophet, he is authorized to speak truth to power. As one who understands that the whole of creation is an embodiment and expression of divine love, he is companioned in this journey by the earth itself. In these trying times he travels not alone, but in companionship with the spiritual strength of the created world, the stones, the trees, the wells and rivers.
Essentially he says, ‘You don’t get it. It is not about me. It is not about my life. It is about Life, and love and the reconciliation of all that has been ripped asunder.’ If his mission is thwarted the stones will cry out, because even the stones are part of the life loving, life affirming universe. They too yearn for the reconciliation of the world. They are his allies, and they are ours.

Focusing Questions:
Are there times when you can feel the presence of God in the inanimate world? A presence with no words, and yet an extraordinary power to touch and to heal. What is that like for you?
Are there ways in which God’s presence is revealed to you that have no words, yet offer guidance or direction?
What would it mean for you to know that the earth, the sky, the wind, and sea are all companions on your journey? That together you speak for the reconciliation of the world?
Jesus does not wonder about the role and place of these things, the stones. He knows they would cry out if God’s will is thwarted. Can you find strength in Jesus’ strength, certainty in his certainty, courage in his courage? Can you let stones be your reminder of the strength and courage that you share?

Gracious God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, who is ever present in care and love, let us find the courage to trust and our well spring of gratitude at your steadfastness in our lives.
We thank you for having moved in the world through Jesus, whose name we know and whose likeness we can imagine, a real and present pointer to your gifts and grace in ways unseen.
We ask that you fill us with the courage we need to face the challenges of our lives, the love we need to prevail against hate, the will we need to disarm the destructive.
May we ever find safety in your arms and renewal in your presence, and may we be reminded each year as we tell the story of your love, that your story is our story, and your love is our own. Amen.