Leaving No Stone Unturned
"Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to god through Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:20
Even in winter, there is no better way for me to clear my head when I am having trouble writing than a walk along the shore. Most often, the wind is biting and there is a soul-deep solitude hard to define. Sometimes I attribute it to the grayness of things; sky, water, boardwalk, even the skyline of the amusement pier is clouded in gray mist. At other times it seems the dearth of neighbors leaves a tinge of loneliness that, in summer, would be welcomed respite. Today, I realize I am missing the birds, most especially the sandpipers.
The beach is devoid of their frenetic activity this morning, as these lucky birds are wintering in South America. Among that group is a bird named the Ruddy Turnstone, so called because of its habit of turning over pebbles, shells and twigs to find food. To watch one at work is to see life breathed into the adage, "no stone left unturned."
As I considered the days of Lent, that phrase kept coming to mind, as did the image of those stout little birds investing all their energy into discovering the food that would sustain them on the journey to their Artic breeding grounds.
Discovery has always appealed to me as an important aspect of both the human and spiritual journey, and stones have fascinated me since my childhood days of digging for quartz with my dad in Thatcher Park. I soon became intrigued with blending the two together as a different way of doing Lent this year.
What might be the benefit of leaving no stone unturned during this season of Lent?
Scripture, I was to discover, is filled with references to stones with both positive and negative connotations. One concordance listed 69 New Testament references, certainly more than is needed for one penitential season! In Exodus, stones of remembrance are engraved with the names of the sons of Israel; in Genesis, Jacob uses a stone for a pillow; David kills Goliath with a stone and slingshot; Matthew reminds us that "God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham," and the devil attempts to use stones as a temptation for Jesus during his 40 days in the desert, saying, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
Among all the symbolism, and images of stones in Scripture, two stand out for me as a focus for this Lenten journey of discovery—obstacle and transformation.
St. Paul writes, "They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, 'See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall.' "
This reference to Jesus as an obstacle to those who have no faith in him served as an opportunity to consider the many stumbling stones in my own life, rocks of my own creation. If I turn over the stone of pride, will I discover humility? If I dislodge the rock of fear, will I discover trust? If I turn over the stone of anger, will I discover patience?
No doubt I am not alone in being able to create a list of some substance identifying the stones that need transformation into manna. This can happen, Jesus assures us, if we only ask. After all, he points out, "Is there anyone among you who, if you your child asks for bread, will give a stone?" God will certainly do no less.
Surely, Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, could have transformed those simple stones into bread in the desert, but that would have been inconsequential compared to the Paschal Mystery, transforming the stone of death into the Bread of Eternal Life.
For us, as Christians, the pivotal stone of transformation is the tomb stone, overturned by God for our sake: "And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it" (Matt.28.2).
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