Friday, March 18, 2005

The story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the beginning of Holy Week sets up a classic arc of hope expressed, hope dashed, hope re-imagined. The prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 is being fulfilled in Jesus' action on this day. People are visually reminded of their dreams of liberation from oppression. Each person has a dream of how this will be accomplished. As the week progresses all the dreams die, nailed to the cross with Jesus. The re-imagining of the dream comes but not this week.
Lane Denson in his daily (usually) meditation Out of Nowhere reflects on another telling of this event in Luke. Jesus says "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." That simple affirmation could be the most overlooked and unsung song of perceptive wisdom in all the events and words that surround us during our celebration of Passion Week.
Bennett Sims reminds us in his book on servant leadership that the quantum physics theorists are certain that there is a caring pulse of energy that animates and interconnects all the entities in the cosmos. Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit paleontologist, outraged his time when he said that the "molecules make love." This, of course, got his books banned as a consequence. In Jesus' time, it might have been -- indeed, was -- seen all along that the created order in all its facets always knew and recognized in their own way who and what was present in him among them. The daemons, the loaves and fishes, the storms, winds, and waves, the human maladies, the fig trees, Satan itself in the wilderness, all were on to what had happened and was going on to happen when the Word became flesh. No wonder Jesus could say that if the crowds were silent, the very stones, themselves, the seemingly most inert and mute of all creation (and, by the by, the epitome of efficiency), would burst forth in adulation. We call it atomic energy, but by whatever name, it remains, Benedicite, omnia opera Domini -- "O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord." If the events we celebrate during this Passion Week tell us nothing more, they remind us once again how inseparable are we one from the other and from the very stones along the way. They may be inert, they may seem to have no freedom at all, but when it comes to presence and endurance and dependability -- and even to praise -- we can learn from them a thing or two."

I often collect stones when I travel. Small reminders of my journeys. They speak to me of places that are important to me. I put them in the small fountain in our entry way. There is a Japanese tradition of meditation that involves listening to stones. Annie Dillard has a book called Teaching a Stone to Talk. There is something wise in stones. One has to sit very still to hear the wisdom. In our current environmental crisis, perhaps the stones are screaming at us to pay attention to the cries of the earth before it is too late.
Jesus enters Jerusalem riding the donkey of hope - a donkey is a determined animal, friendly and easy to ride, but also concerned with its own needs and self preservation, regardless of what humans think it should be doing. Maybe between stones and donkeys there is a lesson - a lesson about persistence, stillness, goals, and keeping the faith in the midst of confusing messages from others.
Take up a small stone today and hold it in your hand. As it warms to your body temperature, notice its shape and how it might have come to be in its current form. Listen to its story.