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      Sunday sermons 

      Each week Pastor Keith’s Sunday sermon is posted on this site. Several other recent sermons are also available here. You can go back over it to review what he said — or if you cannot come to church, you can still enjoy his sermons.

      What Would Stones Say if They Cried Out?
      March 20, 2016
      Luke 19:28-40

      I wanted to find out what crying stones say so I did some research. It all comes out of our reading for this morning. The scene is the “Triumphal Entry.” Jesus is on a donkey colt entering Jerusalem as people spread their cloaks on the road in front of him. The people joyfully shout praises to God and say, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” We are told that some of the Pharisees [religious leaders] in the crowd told Jesus to tell the disciples to stop shouting praises!” To which Jesus replies, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

      So I wanted to find out about stones crying out. What do they sound like? What do they say? So I Googled crying stones. There is a crying stone in Kenya. It’s a big rock that resembles a gowned figure, perpetually in tears flowing from ‘head to toe.’ I’m not sure that’s relevant. I searched and learned The Talking Stone is a book by Issac Asimov about a talking silicon-based life form. Then there is the Talking Rocks Cavern outside Branson, Missouri. I watched a video but they didn’t say anything. Not even an echo. I learned the name comes from the fact that the physical evidence in the cave will tell you a story about how it formed.

      No crying stones. No talking stones or talking rocks. So, in my quest to learn about crying stones, I turned to the Bible. Imagine that. Here’s what I found. Let me remind you, our reading says that if the disciples don’t joyfully shout praises — “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” — if the disciples are shut up the stones will cry out.

      Now, the Pharisees knew that phrase. It is in the words of a minor prophet, Habakkuk. In Chapter 2, the prophet condemns those who gather power and wealth to themselves by evil ways and at the expense of others. Habakkuk says that judgment will come, even from their homes, “The stones of the wall will cry out.” (Hab. 2:11) The stones hear and then testify against those who did wrong in their presence. Of course, this all seems to be a figurative way of saying, “You will be brought to account for what you have done ... and will not be able to deny it. These stones will serve as witnesses against you.” The stones will cry out against injustice.

      In another OT story Joshua reminds the people of Israel of the requirements for serving the Lord. He also warns them of the consequences of turning away from the Lord. Joshua set up a stone under an oak tree. The stone was present when all the warnings were issued by Joshua; the stone heard the people’s commitment to serve the Lord. In the event that the people failed to keep the covenant they couldn't deny that they had made the commitment for the stone was present. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” (Joshua 24:27) The stone could serve as a witness in a court case against the people if they failed to keep the covenant.

      So, we get to the gate of Jerusalem. The disciples are shouting; the cloaks are being thrown on the ground; and according to other accounts, palms are waving. Jesus rides on a donkey colt. They are confronted by the Pharisees who tell them to shut up. Stop with the noise, stop with the songs of messiah.

      Then Jesus says, “If the people stop shouting the stones will cry out.” We think here of rocks crying out shouts of “hosanna.” But when read in light of the OT, I'm not sure the stones are singing. With the OT in view, I’m thinking the stones would cry out in witness against those who demand silence — the Pharisees, against their injustice. But I also think the stone would cry out against those followers who become silent.

      The stones have witnessed this conversation. Stones will cry out against us. Stones will bear witness against us our silence. I'm not so sure our common thinking is right — that if we stop praising God, the rocks and stones themselves will start to sing. The stones won’t sing in our place. The stones will condemn us, the stones will call us to repentance. The stones will cry out for us to shout, and proclaim and confess.

      Followers of Jesus Christ cannot be silent.

      We are to offer the hope of transformation through Jesus Christ.

      We cannot be silent. We are to witness our faith to others.

      We cannot be silent. We are to tell the story of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection for all people.

      In the face of the injustices of racism, sexism and prejudice we cannot be silent.

      When people are forgotten or dehumanized because of their ethnicity, age or economic status we cannot be silent.

      When we encounter those in need of comfort and companionship, we cannot remain silent or distant. We shout with our lives and our hands and our feet that we serve a risen savior.

      There is a book titled Our Guilty Silence. Its focus is the church withholds the gospel from the world. The author gives four basic reasons why we don’t proclaim the great, marvelous, delivering, liberating truth inherent in the good news of Jesus Christ. The stones cry out — not in praise, but in condemnation — because we have failed to evangelize. Our silence condemns folks to death and misery and darkness. And the stones cry out against us, denounce us, chastise us.

      This is God’s desire for his people today — for us — to proclaim, in the midst of life, the mighty works of God so that the world might understand who Jesus is.

      So shout, sing, celebrate, and wave your palms. But know the stones are witnesses. Tell the story of Jesus. Tell the story of his betrayal, of people abandoning him, of denial, of a cruel death on a cross. Shout with joy the raising of Jesus on Resurrection Day and new life we have in Jesus Christ. The stones are listening and are witnesses. Don’t make the stones cry out.

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      • Presbytery of S. Alabama
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      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367


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