St. Paul's Episcopal Church
65 North Main Street
Wallingford, CT 06492

(203) 269-5050
 

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Easter 5A: 5/18/14

The Rev. Dee Anne Dodd

St. Paul's, Wallingford CT

 

From today's psalm:

"Be my strong rock, O Lord, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold..."

 

You know that old folk tale "stone soup"?

Each culture seems to have its own version.

When you come down to it

it's about a bunch of people so hungry that

they start a soup kettle going with nothing more than

water and a stone.

Eventually others come along to add carrots or potatoes

or a few herbs and before you know it

there's a tasty soup to share.

It's a parable about working together.

 

Well, today's lections are a veritable "stone soup"

of scripture readings.

It's one of those weeks when they all seem to work

with a common image.

And that image is, literally, stones.

 

Stones, little rocks.

You almost certainly stepped on some this morning 

whether on a nicely landscaped driveway at home or

the parking lot here.

 

I keep my house in bloom all winter  

by planting amaryllis and paper whites in stones.

Life growing out of stones, living stones.

 

Stones can be a means of violence and death.

Not only in ancient times, but tragically even in our own day,

women and girls are sentenced to stoning,

sometimes for transgressions committed by others,

usually male relatives.

 

There are bigger stones too, aren't there? 

Perhaps you've noticed our cornerstone outside etched with

the year it was laid. 

A cornerstone, whether literal or figurative, from which

everything else is built --

even something as big and grand as this church.

Then there are capstones, the highest center of an arch,

which keep everything from falling apart.

 

And, yes, stones that seal cold dank tombs.

Best of all that stone rolled away from Jesus' tomb

to reveal resurrection and life.

 

We get a little of everything in today's scriptural "stone soup".

 

In our first reading from Acts, the saga of the early church,

we see the stoning of Stephen,

the first Christian martyr whose death echoes Jesus'.

Stephen is surely a hero of our faith.

But here's the thing about his stoning:

It wasn't done by "bad guys" but mostly nice religious folks --

in many ways, our forebears --

who felt that they were doing the right thing

by silencing this trouble-maker

who was, in their minds, jeopardizing their beloved traditions.

 

Let the witness of Stephen's stoning be for us

not only an inspiration

to stand up for our faith even when it is difficult to do so.

Let it also be a warning against the temptation to "stone" --

with our judgment or ignorance  --

those who don't look or love or act or pray like us.

 

The stone image from today's psalm is how I began this sermon.

It asks God to be the rock on which we stand,

the castle which keeps us safe,

the crag on which we climb.

 

Likewise, the epistle -- the First Letter of Peter,

has a sequence of stone images.

God in Christ is a living stone, it says.

Christ is our cornerstone.

And because of him now we're living stones too.

Each of us, as living stones, built together by Christ's own hand

into a spiritual house.

 

That's not Jesus' only reference to a house, is it?

"In my Father's house there are many dwelling places"

he says in the gospel,

one we might've heard more often at funerals

than Sunday services.

The stone imagery here is more implied than stated,

as Jesus promises to guide us to that spiritual house

in this life into the next.

 

So here's a stone. 

I buy these by the bushel.

Because, if you've served on the Vestry you know

that we end every meeting by passing a basket of them around

and each writing a prayer request on it. 

I dare say some of you have had your names written

on these stones over the years.

Then we pass them around again,

this time taking someone else's stone

which we add to our prayers for the next month.

It's a real "stone soup" of prayer.

 

Would you believe that last Tuesday's meeting was

the first time we've forgotten to do this?

Never fear -- we're all going to make up for it.

Here's how it works.

Take a quiet moment to listen for what God might

be nudging you to pray.

Then, on the stones given by the ushers,

using the Sharpies scattered in the pews,

write on the stone -- a name, nickname, initials,

an issue or part of the world you're concerned about,

a thanksgiving;

whatever shorthand works.

 

Then at the Peace,

give your stone to someone else to take home to pray.

Make a trade.

And here's the fun part -- don't just hand it to the person

sitting closest to you.

How about someone beyond your pew,

someone you don't know.

In fact, let's swap stones multiple times

as we exchange the Peace -- really stir it up!

Let's make a delicious "stone soup".

 

Got it?  Take a moment.  Let us pray.....

 

Amen.

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