Stones, there are smooth ones, rough ones, shiny ones, dull ones, big ones, little ones, pretty ones, and plain ones. There are enough different types of stones that anyone can find the exact one or ones that they are drawn to.
When my Dad bought the farm just west of the home place he put me to work picking up the rocks and stones that littered the southwest hill. I never knew there were that many rocks in Iowa. We never had any on the home place. Anyway I found all kinds and colors. I picked up every rock I could see and put them in my uncle’s old duffel bag. They found their way to the home place where they ended up being dumped out on the ground to make a path through the mud. They were a hindrance in one place and a real help in another place. I wonder if they’re still there or has someone else picked them up and moved them to a new location.
Our family took vacations in Colorado when the kids were little and of course the car was always loaded with rocks to bring back to Iowa. I used to think it was the kids putting them in the car but after they left home I still found rocks in the car when we got back home.
Peter talks about living stones maybe these were what he was talking about and they wanted to live in Iowa. Who knows?
Rocks and stone are useful in many different ways. For generations people have used rocks to build strong foundations for homes, cathedrals, city halls, and barns. In New Hampshire the granite is so thick they cut it into blocks to be used for cornerstones and capstones in construction. Flat slabs are sawn to be used for counter tops and floors. Besides making the buildings pleasing to the eye they are strong and once they are put in place they don’t move.
Sometimes stones and rocks aren’t so nice. For instance, if I’m digging a well and all of a sudden the auger begins to shake and then stops because it’s not able to go any deeper. Thirty nine feet deep and that’s it because there’s a rock right where we wanted the well. Or we’re plowing a field that hasn’t been turned over in 10 years and all of sudden our tractors take off without the plow. That rock didn’t look that big. It was only 4 feet around and 6 feet tall. It wasn’t in the most convenient place. It took a bulldozer to dig it up and move it so we could farm there.
Or what about when you’re out walking in the summer in your sandals? You walk along for a ways and then have to stop because a stone has found its way into your sandal. It’s not very comfortable and it’s certainly not convenient.
Rocks and stones can be very good, very useful or they can be a real pain. They can make our homes look better or they can cause us to stumble and fall.
Kind of like Jesus; sometimes, when it’s convenient, he’s a real help for us and other times, when it’s not so convenient for us, he makes us very uncomfortable.
The Hebrew Scriptures talked about the Rock that was eternal. The psalmist wrote of the stone the builders rejected. Isaiah was the one who wrote about the stone that causes men to stumble. He also told a God laying a stone in Zion. It wasn’t until Jesus came and began to use these references to describe himself that people began to understand and believe and get upset and angry.
Jesus talked about stones for building. Those who heard his words and put them into practice were like a man who built his house on the rock.
He knew how stones could be used to hurt and kill. Remember what he told those who brought the woman to him, “…let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They also wanted to take Jesus out to the cliff and push him off and bury him in stones. Only he slipped away from them without them knowing where he went.
Our reading from Acts shows us how stones were used to kill Stephen. The words Stephen used weren’t kind and gentle words; the words he used cut them to the quick. They covered their ears so they wouldn’t have to listen. They charged him and took him outside of the city to the cliff and covered him with the stones they threw. Those stones hurt and were meant to take his life. Yet he asked God to forgive them as Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him on the cross.
Rocks and stones, Jesus and the cross, what are they to you? Are they the foundation of your faith or are they the rocks you stumble and fall over?
God leaves that decision up to us. Thanks be to God for his forgiving grace. Amen.