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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Rock Shouts

Date: 03/20/2005

Feast: Palm sun

Church: LHPC

James McTyre

Bible text: Matt. 21:1-11

Theme: Celebration?!

In the Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 19, the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday ends this way:

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop."

He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

Good morning. My name is Peter. Simon Peter. I am an apostle. And I am a rock.

I am a real rock. I am not the human named for me, the man in your Bibles. I know of him, but I am not him. You are like him. I feel your footsteps. I hear the blood pounding in your veins. I know your tramping parades. And I know your silence. And that is why I am here today. Your silence calls to me that I might shout.

I am old. You have no idea how old I am. Your flesh and bone are so fragile, so brief. You are filled with so much water. It washes you from shore to shore, from whim to thought to belief and back again. I don’t understand how you can possess any lasting knowledge. You feed from the earth; you return to the earth; and yet you fight to escape the earth’s pull from your first morning until your last night. You are earth. You are part of earth’s wisdom, a thin page of its story. And so I ask you to listen to me, a small, broken, rough piece of your earth, a piece of you. Pay attention to the words of an old stone.

I am called Simon Peter. The breath of your mouths gives me a name, and for that I am grateful to you. Your languages tell my story, even without your awareness. I forgive your simple memory. You are too young to remember that once upon a time, there were people called, ah, what was it? Hebrews. Their earthly voices created a word: Simon. The word fell on me one day when I was already very old, a gift from a man whose sandal passed by me on a road. And the word, the name, reminded me who I am. “Simon” means, “hearkening,” “listening.” And that, simple humans, is what I have done from my beginning: I have listened. I am Simon Peter, Simon Petros – the listening rock.

I have heard the crackling awakenings of earth, bursting forth toward the heavens. I have felt infinite pressures grind and scrape, the groans of earthquakes, the roar of tsunamis. I have heard continents cry as they ripped apart, knowing someday they would be infected with the disease you call, “foreign.”

I hear your children when they scrape their knees on my sharpness. Their blood and tears soften even me. I have been thrown by your teenagers at security officers whose burned metal guns throw burning metal in return. I hear mothers cry.

I have been thrown at women caught in adultery by men who denied ever knowing them. I have been gathered and stacked and pressed into buildings, monuments and homes. I have heard your dedications, your solemn, spoken prayers for immortality that you mistakenly believe I can bring you. I am Simon, the listener. And you, you people, are noisy.

Yesterday – oh, forgive me – it was long ago to you. Long ago, there was a day. There was a day that reminded me of my own birth. It was a glorious day where your kind and mine shared the noise of creation’s echoes. One of yours, a man you call “Jesus,” whose name means “God (the Creator OUR creator), is salvation,” rode past. Salvation rode past. The Creator rode past. I listened. I listened to the clipping, clopping hoof beats of the animal carrying his flesh and bones. I felt the breeze of palm branches, the warmth of the peoples’ clothing spread on the ground around me. I heard your voices calling, “Hosanna! Save us! Save us now!” And beneath all your noise, I felt the whole earth gasp with love, grasping out to the Creator. And although you couldn’t hear me, I cried out, too. I shook out the voice that too long had been silent within me. I shouted praise. I shouted kinship. I shouted love.

Someday, when we are buried near each other, I will whisper to your bones, and you will hear my voice again. I will gently sing to you everything about yourself, your history, your people, your earth. And I will tell you of the Creator. My low, quiet song will teach you how time, your time, is nothing to him. I would tell you these things now, but your bodies couldn’t bear them yet. The Creator’s word is too great for your frailty to carry. So, I will tell you this.

Rock and bone, flesh and blood, we are one. We are the Creator’s children, each in our own way. Your purposes are different than mine. And, unlike my kind, you invent new purposes for yourselves. You use; I listen. You use me; I wait. You use each other. You believe you are creators and your proud, rattling noises hurt you. They hurt me. I hear you walking away from each other, I feel the silence you leave behind. There are too few of your days when you sing, “Hosanna.” There are too many yesterdays when you have forgotten to listen to the Creator’s songs. You cannot hear simple rocks beneath your feet because your mouths and your minds are set on yourselves.

Listen, my cousins of the earth. Listen to me and to my kind. Listen to the birds of our earth’s springtime. Listen to the buds of the flowers as they burst open. Listen to the giggling laughter of mountain streams as they offer themselves to fox and deer. And listen to the part your delicate bodies that too easily becomes harder than stone. Listen to your hearts. Listen to the rhythm of the Creator pounding out glory inside you each passing moment. Your moments do pass. But the sounds of eternal life are always around you, if you will but listen.

Your creator – our Creator – is around you, and within you. The Creator’s Spirit lives and breathes through you. Your savior – our Savior – the one your people called, “Jesus,” is alive. He is alive as much today as he was that yesterday, long ago. You sit in your wooden pews, with your hands folded, your voices muted by manners. Your silence in the presence of the Creator frightens me. Because I fear your silence is not the sound of awe, but the emptiness of a world echoing against itself. I fear you have grown silent in the presence of your Savior, not from respect, but because you don’t know what to do. You don’t know him well enough to know what to say. He has become a stranger.

And so, I ask you to listen to an old rock. If you are silent, listen to my hosannas. If you are afraid to shout, hear me. I am singing beneath your feet. I am singing because that is what we do. That is what all of us must do. We all are created to sing praises to our Creator, each in our own way. My friends, my earthly cousins, do not let your hearts become harder than I. Soften yourselves, and open your ears. Lift your voices while you can. Join me. Join all creation. You already have, you know. Creation is joined in you. And our Savior is here. Hosanna. If you cannot shout it, whisper. Hosanna. Hosanna to the King. Listen, and you will hear me. Speak, and the Creator will hear you.