ISAIAH 54: (WE REMEMBER THE MOST ANCIENT OF TIMES)
REVELATION 2:17 (OUR NEW NAME IN THE STONE)
Palm Sunday “Let the Stones Cry Out”
Rev. Elder Lillie Brock
Have you ever seen a movie preview that was so compelling it made you want to rush out and see the movie right away?
Have you ever rushed out to see that movie, only to find that everything compelling about the movie was in the trailer?
Sometimes the trailers aren’t what they seem, are they? Anything that is only a snapshot can often be misleading.
So, however we experience the preview of a story, there is almost always more to it than the trailer can ever convey.
At this point in the Lenten season, we enter what the Christian Church has regarded for centuries as Holy Week. It begins with Palm Sunday, and this beginning makes for a very compelling preview to the experience of Holy Week. This story is a good trailer. It’s not filled with fluff or misleading scenes but rather with all the preparations for what is ahead. If you and I are willing to be in the story of Palm Sunday, then we will be infinitely more prepared for the journey toward Easter.
The world on that day wasn’t unlike ours. On one side of Jerusalem, the Roman army marched with its chariots and horses as a warning to the Jews who were there to celebrate the Passover. Intimidation by force and suspicion led the parade on that side of town.
On the other side of town, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey while peasants cheered for him and waved palm branches. The Jewish leaders were suspect as this man Jesus spoke of himself as the Messiah. The Romans tried to intimidate the Jews to silence them, and the Jewish leaders tried to intimidate Jesus to silence him. While the Romans marched in on one side of town, Jesus rode on a donkey in peaceful protest to violence, an unfair tax code, and injustice to the poor. Does that sound familiar?
As Jesus rode in on the donkey and down the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the Jewish leaders asked Jesus to silence those who cheered for him. And Jesus said, “even if they were quiet, the stones would cry out.” Since there is a cemetery along this route on the Mount of Olives, it could be that Jesus referenced the stones that were piled high in the cemetery. In Jewish tradition, the stones were not only used to build grave markers, but when people visited the graves, they left a stone as a symbol that the person buried there would not be forgotten and their words and life would continue to speak.
(Image credit: rootsweb.ancestry.com)
So when Jesus said, “the stones will cry out,” he called on the voices of those who had gone before to testify to this moment of peaceful protest.
She got on the bus one day. She was tired, exhausted really. She was tired of being sent to the back of the bus, so she sat in the front. The people protested and tried through intimidation to silence her. But Rosa Parks, in peaceful protest, kept her seat in the front of the bus. The stones cry out.
He walked for 340 miles across the state of California (USA) in peaceful protest to the treatment of migrant workers. His people were being poisoned by the pesticides being put on the fields while they worked hard, long hours and got paid a pauper’s wage. Caesar Chavez stood up to say that this was unjust and marched into the capital city of Sacramento to speak for those who had no voice. The stones cry out.
He and his wife were awakened to the bombs thrown in their window. Their children were unhurt but horribly frightened. With everything on the line, Dr. Martin Luther King insisted on peaceful protest and led a march from Selma to Montgomery (Alabama, USA) so that justice and equality might be a reality for everyone. The stones cry out.
She stepped from slavery in Africa onto the podium of the convention floor to give voice for slaves and women. She endured the hissing and abuse that came from white men in order to speak words of freedom and truth. Sojourner Truth kept standing in protest against those who tried to silence her. The stones cry out.
We stand at a place in history where we know the end of the story about Jesus. He knew that if he stood with those who were hungry, sick, poor and in need of grace, it might cost him his life. Jesus knew that he was entering the city to cheers from those who needed his voice. He also knew that he would meet the voices of those who wanted to silence him.
Jesus gave us a preview alright. In one morning of peaceful protest on top of a donkey, Jesus introduced us to the contradictions that exist in life when we speak for those who have no voice and we stand for those who cannot find justice.
Just for a moment, consider the contradictions that Jesus endured that day. The very ones who cheered for him also abandoned him. The momentary cheers turned into jeers in only hours. The rousing Hosannah’s turned into deafening silence. Yes, this was a preview. It ends with Jesus saying to the Jewish leaders, “even if you silence these, the stones will cry out!” In other words, no matter what you do, the stones will cry out for justice and peace.
I suspect that you, like me, often ignore the stones that cry out. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Sojourner Truth walked the path of Holy Week.
They experienced freedom and slavery, triumph and defeat, greatness and oppression, life and death. They understood what it meant to be stones that would cry out through the ages. Their voices live on, and the life of Jesus cries out loudest of all. When we listen to the stones, what do we hear? If we are honest, most of us want to get to Resurrection without having to take the trip through Holy Week. But we live in a world of relativity where joy doesn’t mean much unless you’ve known sadness, and hope doesn’t mean much unless you’ve known despair, and life doesn’t mean much unless you’ve known death. At the very heart of God is the invitation to engage in our humanity, with all its contradictions, so that we might know new life.
My friends, it takes courage and an extra measure of faith to listen to the stones cry out. We live in a culture that encourages us everyday to have more, spend more, seek more comforts, climb more ladders to the top, and get all that we were meant to have. But Holy Week challenges us to dig deeper.
It challenges us to breathe deep and walk with Jesus through the highs and lows that come when you stand for those who cannot speak. It challenges us to keep standing in the face of opposition. It challenges us to care about those who live in poverty and suffer at the hands of unjust wars. It challenges us to see the human Jesus who showed us how to live and die and live again. The stones are crying out . . . are you listening?