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Rock on

Pastoral Messages | April 30, 2019

If you know me at all, you’ve probably learned that I have a thing for rocks. River rocks and painted stones speckle my office and among these treasures are also a few gems: rose quartz and amethyst are my favorites. Some earthy types praise the healing properties of said gems. Rose quartz for generating love; amethyst, encouraging clarity, spirituality and non-attachment. I don’t know if I buy these theories, but appreciate them more as intentions. When I look at my chunks of quartz and amethyst, I try to think about embodying love and being a person who doesn’t depend – too much – on outside substances for a sense of well-being (the occasional third cup of coffee excluded).

So that’s my office. But did you know that there are a few noteworthy rocks in the Bible?

Of course, most recently, we woke Easter morning to a stone rolled away; unearthing the tomb that held Jesus’ crucified body. That stone participates in the story of Christ’s rising, for it befuddles believers and doubters alike. Who moved the stone? Too heavy to lift, too much of a monolith to budge. That rock, perhaps just by being its rock-ish self, was a significant witness to the resurrection.

The week prior, Jesus was parading into Jerusalem on a donkey with his followers, and the crowds began to get loud. Those in his midst were shouting with joy, proclaiming jubilant hosannas. The Roman authorities wanted to quiet them, but Jesus said: “If we are made silent, the very stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

Compelling as they are, these are just a couple of the stories of the rocks of Holy Week and Easter. But even in the Old Testament, we meet some faithful lumps of earth. When Jacob leaves home in Genesis 28, he pulls up a rock as a pillow and sleeps and dreams. God appears to him in the dream in the form of angels descending and ascending between heaven and earth. When Jacob awakes, he anoints the rock with oil and renames the city where he rested Bethel, reasoning that “God is in this place.” For Jacob, and for others in ancient Israel, a rock with a name was a sacred monument; God has met me here – and the earth below me and the spirit within me are both changed.

Rocks are fun, easy objects to spot near riverbeds or on a hiking path. But today, I see them as more than objects to collect and passively admire. As we see in these biblical passages, rocks are a part of the narrative of our Christian faith, the story of our ever-present God, and even the central message of our Risen Lord.

-Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family life

 

3 Comments on “Rock on”

  • Sheila Mesick

    May 6, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I have long collected rocks/stones, former students, family and friends bring them home to me from their travels. Your examples that stones/rocks play in scripture brings a new meaning/insight to hook onto my collection. Not only do they provide connections to my present world but also to the spiritual world.

  • David DeWit

    May 2, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    Your essay reminded me of the stone monument that the Israelites built when they finally crossed the Jordan River and were allowed to enter the “Promised Land” after 40 years of wandering in the desert (Joshua 3:14 – 4:9). The priests stood in the middle of the river with the Ark of the Covenant, and the waters were held back until all the people and animals had crossed. As a reminder for future generations of God’s help, a representative of each of the 12 tribes of Israel took a stone and these were piled up in the middle of the river as “a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
    Hundreds of years later, King David says in Psalm 143:5: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”
    Maybe we can be mental “monument-builders” even today, if like the Psalmist, we remain mindful of God’s blessings and remember to thank Him for them.
    Thanks for the reminder Kendra.

  • David DeWit

    May 2, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    This reminded me of the stone monument that was built when the Israelites after 40 years of wandering in the desert finally crossed the Jordan and were allowed to enter the “promised land” Exodus 3:14 – 4:9. The priests stood in the middle of the river with the ark of the covenant and the waters were held back until the people had crossed. As a reminder for future generations of God’s help, a representative of each of the 12 tribes took a stone and made a stone monument in the middle of the river.
    Monument-building is probably important for God’s people, even today. Hundreds of years later, King David had built a mental monument: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done (Psalm 143:5).

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Isaiah 58:1-12

False and True Worship 58 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator[a] shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Proclaiming Christ Crucified 2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters,[a] I did not come proclaiming the mystery[b] of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom,[c] but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. The True Wisdom of God 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.[d] 14 Those who are unspiritual[e] do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Matthew 5:13-20

Salt and Light 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. The Law and the Prophets 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God[a] that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm 119:1-8

1 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. 8 I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3 And so, brothers and sisters,[a] I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,[a] you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult[b] a brother or sister,[c] you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell[d] of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister[e] has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,[f] and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court[g] with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Concerning Adultery 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.[h] 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.[i] Concerning Divorce 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Concerning Oaths 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.[j]

Exodus 24:12-18

12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 12 kiss his feet,[a] or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

2 Peter 1:16-21

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.[b]

Matthew 17:1-9

17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b] here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”