(You may view video of this sermon at our church’s Youtube channel)
A few weeks into the stay-at-home order, one morning I was out in our front yard when I spotted something sitting at the base of a silver maple tree that lives on our sidewalk strip. It was a stone, smooth and flat and round. As I got closer I saw that on that stone someone had painted a heart.
It was positioned at the base of the tree so that people walking on the sidewalk would see it – it was for those who passed by.
That morning that happened to be me.
It was a blessing.
I picked it up, and it warmed my heart and soothed my mind to receive this little gift of Agape love, indiscriminate love. Whoever it was who left that heart on the stone at the base of a maple tree had intended it for anyone and everyone.
After I held it for a moment, I put it back for someone else to find. It stayed there for a few weeks. And then one day it was gone. The person who needed to take it with them took it with them.
A little while later when we started doing our “Drive-by Blessings” at the church, a member of a church community often would come by with a stone like this that they had found, that someone had painted on a word of blessing or a little work of art. This person just had an inclination to find these blessing stone.
They would then entrust the stone to me to pass on to the person I found who then seemed to need to receive it. Week after week I’d have these stones to pass on. Sometimes it was clear to me who to give it to. And sometimes I had the sense it was best for me to leave it out somewhere to be found by the right passerby.
It was one of these stones that this member of our church community found and then entrusted to me that became the first stone in the center of our walking labyrinth. This stone is painted with this lacy, spidery mandala. It became the first stone in the center of our labyrinth for our Prayer Rock Labyrinth Walk event last week. I put it there on the day we had to postpone the event two weeks ago because of the wildfire smoke. It was an act of trust that we would come together to share prayers and blessings despite yet another obstacle.
And indeed, we did come together. The smoke cleared and our people gathered, safely, to paint rocks with the prayers and blessings we want to offer.
It was a beautiful day. There was beautiful music as people took turns traversing the of the labyrinth to offer their stone to the center. The center of the labyrinth represents God as the heart of our journey, the heart of our community and the heart of each of our hearts.
People created very beautiful stones that express
Photos of these rocks are scattered through this online service.
Anyone in town is welcome to come by the labyrinth in our church parking lot, whenever you want. Whether you were able to be at the event or not, whether you’re part of our church community or not, you’re welcome to come by to see these stones, and to offer one of your own if you like, or, if you feel led, to receive one to take with you, perhaps to keep with you a while, perhaps to pass on around town. There’s a basket of unpainted stones there by the labyrinth, so you can pick one up and take it home to paint.
So, the first stone I put in the center two weeks ago, on that smoke choked day, has this image of a kind of spiderweb mandala. That image, now surrounded by all these other wonderful expressions of our community’s prayer and creativity, calls to my heart what Dr. King called the “inescapable web of mutuality.” We are all interconnected, interwoven, interdependent in a web of relation that is sacred, that has its center in God.
As I see it, these anonymous blessing stones people have been painting and sharing, far and wide, leaving out for anyone to find to keep or pass by or pass on, this movement is an expression of that inescapable web of mutuality. The stones are an expression of a kind of underground anonymous Agape economy. Much has been made about how the anonymity of the internet has opened the flood gates to all kinds of venom and deceit. The antidote is anonymous acts of Agape.
Agape is the Christian concept of unconditional love, love that does not pick and choose, judge or refuse. This is Christlike love; the love God has for each and all. This is love we can receive from God, love we can participate with – or not.
Agape love is a love that does justice and performs mercy. It is the root of our view that all people have equal dignity and worth, and are equally deserving of the right to live fully, freely, and safely. Agape is the antidote to evil. This is what Christ embodied.
Agape love is what happens when we walk humbly with God. It is what happens when we have a grateful heart, when we know that whatever gifts we have received, including our being itself, simply are gifts, and don’t render us any more or less deserving than others. Our mere existence, everyone’s mere existence, is its own merit – mere but sufficient.
Anonymous acts of kindness are little reminders of this, whether we receive them, whether we give them, whether we pass them on. Anonymous acts of blessing are little ways to usher us into the Holy realm of Agape.
So, let’s keep finding ways to give and to receive and to share the blessings we wish for each other and for our world.
Thanks be to God.