(Check out video of this sermon here in our Youtube Easter service!)
Back in the fall
When the nights were getting cool
And the days were still warm
When the leaves were beginning to turn
And many plants and trees put out seeds to overwinter
Back when the pandemic and overall mood in our country was only getting bleaker
Many of us at our church came together out here
One autumn Sunday – a gorgeous autumn morning
To paint prayers onto stones.
And once we had painted what we wanted onto our prayer stones, we each carried into the labyrinth, there.
And we left them in the center
Where they built up one at time,
Into what turned out to be a beautiful gathering of painted stones –
A luminous prism of our faith community’s hope & wisdom.:
There were lacy hearts, and rainbows, and iridescent swirls,
There were good words about Hope & Grief, Love & Awe, Beauty & Humor & Joy,
Trust & Faith & Community & Tenacity.
“Be still…” said one.
“Lo, I am with you always,” said another
“Love never fails”
“We will get through this”
There were paintings of trees and flowers and mountains and crosses and sunrises. There were tributes to our dearly departed.
These were the prayers of our people and for our people.
When we parted paths after that morning, we left those stones there in the open center of the labyrinth for anyone to find.
And in the weeks to come I noticed that indeed people had been coming by and finding them. Some new prayer rocks appeared. And some disappeared. I imagined that some sojourners saw one that called to them and I’m glad they felt free to pocket it.
This activity slowed down, as the harvest came and went, and plants got bare and brittle – the freezing fog came in, and the sleet, the winter wind, the winter sun, and eventually the snows.
This was a hard winter for many – a winter of loneliness and anxiety and strife.
Towards the end of the winter I was walking to the church one morning and I noticed that the stones were no longer in the middle of the labyrinth, someone had scattered them throughout the path. So, I walked that path and looked at each stone as I came upon it. And I found that each stone had been worn bare. There were flakes and flickers of color here and there, some fragments of words or a picture. But mostly the weather had worn them back to stone.
And, as I looked at how the elements had worn our color away, I was hit with a tremendous sadness.
Now, I tried to think deep thoughts about how all things change and God alone abides. I tried to remember the Japanese word for beholding the beauty of the cherry tree after its blossoms have fallen. I tried to imagine our prayers spreading on the wind like seeds.
But I just wasn’t feeling it. What I was feeling was bleak and bereft – tremendous sadness. I missed you all; I missed us all being together; and I just felt desperate for this Godforsaken pandemic to end.
Then, as I kept walking, I came upon a stone, one stone that had not worn at all. Its colors had stood bright and bold in the face of the wind and sleet and snow.
It said: “Make Good Trouble.”
Now, if that isn’t one of the saints giving a wink from the other side! “Make Good Trouble.”
A good word from an elder Jesus-follower about standing bright and bold the face of wind and sleet and snow. It was like a wise and mischievous slug of the gumption and grace that comes when we truly let Jesus be our guide.
For people of the Resurrection, nothing is Godforsaken. The Divine truly is here in our midst, giving us opportunities for love and faith and service and mercy and sacred mischief, even as we wind through the valleys of the shadow of death.
And I knew then, in that ragged end of winter, surveying our prayer stones worn back to stone, I knew the promise of Easter. And I knew that when Easter came, and we remembered and relived the Resurrection, we’d have to come back together again to paint new prayers on those stones. And new people would join in, and we’d find new vision, renewed vision and purpose. And we’d find new ways to make good trouble together in the name of the evergreen God of Love.
So, here we are, again. And at the end of the service I encourage you to go and paint a new prayer stone – your prayer for our community and our world, as people of the Resurrection.
Thanks be to God!