Holy Days

The Rocks and Stones Themselves

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting
If ev’ry tongue was still the noise would still continue
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing

Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

I love the image of the rocks and stones singing. I’ve heard some other references to the idea that we’d best do the shouting ourselves and not leave it to the rocks, and I understand that, but ever since I listed to JCS again a few years ago and really paid attention to the words, this has been my favorite passage from the musical. We’re quoting Luke. When I heard the gospel lesson read in church this morning, I felt the same thrill at these words that ended the reading:

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
(Luke 19:39-40, NRSV)

Years ago, on a Sunday morning in the midst of a blizzard, I went with a retreat group to a park containing a famous lighthouse in a nearby town. We split up to do an exercise in which we were to toss into the ocean a stone we had invested with our bad or angry or hurt feelings toward another person. I went right to the little beach, mostly because I was a little afraid of scrambling around on the bigger rocks further along the coast where my group-mates were headed. It’s not like the white sand beaches of my childhood. Instead it is covered with tiny stones, much like the one I held in my pocket that day. When the waves hit the little rocks, they spoke to me, crackling and and crowing and singing in the chill air.

They sang a song of my anger and disappointment, which really had very little to do with the person I had in mind when I picked the stone in my pocket. I knew it then, but to let go of my anger toward the people who had genuinely hurt me most felt too frightening.

I turned my attention to the stone in my hand, tried to refocus my thoughts on the exercise.

But the tiny stones and the waves would not be silent!

When I read the story of Palm Sunday in the words of Luke, I believe in stones shouting and rocks singing, a material response to the joy of the day and the power of the man who entered Jerusalem and the the electricity of the storm gathering around him.

Pay attention to the stones, poised to tell us what we do not want to hear.

5 thoughts on “The Rocks and Stones Themselves”

  1. After reading this I got the spiritual “Ain’t Got Time to Die” stuck in my head. Especially the chorus, “It takes all of my time to praise my Jesus. All of my time to praise my Lord. If I don’t praise Him the rocks are gonna cry out, ‘Glory and honor! Glory and honor!’ Ain’t got time to die!”
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I love that spiritual, too! A friend’s husband has soloed on it at a couple of denominational events, gloriously and glorifyingly.

  3. Oh man . . . reading the Passion in church yesterday . . . I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but it was all I could do to keep from belting out in my most sinister voice, “Tell the rabble to be quiet we anticipate a riot, this common crowd — is much too loud.”
    With everything else I dealt with that day, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t.

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