It’s Easter week and I am re-reading well-thumbed events from the Gospels. Jesus passes the Mount of Olives as he approaches Jerusalem. The crowds are ecstatic, welcoming the Messiah to their holy city, daring to believe their days of Roman oppression are over at last. There is an expectant buzz. This is something the Jewish nation has been anticipating for centuries. The religious elite is less impressed. For all sorts of reasons – a mix of indignation, envy and fear – they tell Jesus to rebuke the over-exuberant mob. Jesus turns to them and says: I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
This stops me in my tracks. What a weird statement! I imagine Jesus looking down at the ground, and perhaps shielding his eyes as the dazzling glow of the city wall comes into view. He is warning the Pharisees not to miss the uniqueness of this moment. If they do, he declares that the inert pebbles beneath their feet and the inanimate blocks of stone ahead will not be able to contain themselves. They will surely break into song at the coming of their longed-for Saviour. I feel included in that warning. Have I become blasé by skimming over these events? Am I in danger of missing the wonder of the living God disrupting routine, of the heavenly Father ushering his Son into the limelight?
Taken for granted, downtrodden, without a voice. Yet it is surprising what you see from the ground level up. Time and again in the scriptural narrative, stones offer a fresh perspective on familiar events, imparting insights not imposed by us. We enter a Holy-Spirit-world where we are no longer central.
In the Old Testament, with minimum fuss, stones witness angelic dreams, carry commands, solemnise oaths, mark miracles, define boundaries, and signify integrity for God’s people. In the time of Jesus and his followers, they cry out, they release the dead, they become precious, they condemn crowds, they come alive, and then, at the end of time, they convey our unique name and form the jewel-like foundation of a new kingdom. It is not their crystal resonances and supposed chakra properties that grip me. More their acquired wisdom as overlooked but observant bystanders. A stone perspective is wonderfully non-egocentric, classless, gender-free, culturally inclusive, politically neutral and planet-attentive. It encourages me not to colonise biblical stories with my favoured assumptions.
The alcohol-ink illustrations produced by Sundy Lin Mabey, echo this, allowing the colours to wander and fuse, to find their spontaneous patterns and to somehow speak back.
Each chapter closes with an invitation to reflect on what God is saying through the Stones. The next time you are walking in a garden, a park, a field…ask the Holy Spirit to guide you towards a stone. Allow the stone to choose you, imagine the stone crying out to you. Once you have discovered the right stone, bring this to your private place where you regularly connect with God.
The Reflections also lend themselves to a small group where you can share what God has been saying to you in your private meditations with Him. A journal may be a good way of catching the insights and revelations that arise. Draw, doodle, write…be creative! Below is a sample chapter, the last of 27 meditations from the book.
Ch 27: WHITE STONE
To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
He first picked up the stone when he was sixteen. It was a revelation moment. It was like he had been running. From what and to what he wasn’t sure. But he finally stopped and he made his peace with God. To seal the pact as it were, God gave the young man a white stone.
It had some special markings which meant something special to him. Like a unique heavenly identity, a secret name, signifying a fresh start. Ever since the stone has always been close by.
There were times when he strayed away. On some occasions, it was almost as though he’d forgotten the stone, but he always returned, turning it over in his hand with a wistful look.
Now, he is holding the stone tightly in his palm. He is on his way to some kind of wedding. As he draws closer, he joins many others, each one with their hands tightly clenched. Maybe they are holding stones too. Now there are hundreds, a countless throng of people converging to the sound of beautiful music.
Finally, they assemble in a stunning building, more vast than a celestial city yet more intimate than a moonlit beach. Then into view comes this person in awesome attire – resplendent like a Bridegroom – moving amongst his guests. With a broad smile he checks their stones, and each time there is a jolt of joy as the giver and receiver fully recognise each other. Tears flow as the Bridegroom voices their unique name. A name he had bestowed on each guest so long ago, even before the beginning of time and sealed with a stone.
Then the turn of the man comes. His hand which had been clutching the stone so tightly like a precious entrance ticket, slowly opens. How proud he feels at that moment as the Bridegroom gazes lovingly at him and their eyes meet. Tears of joy well up as his secret name is whispered.
He has failed on many occasions, but he has also withstood trials, resisted many temptations, stayed true through thick and thin, and remained faithful to the end. Now – still holding the white stone – the man is affirmed as an overcomer.
Recall the time you first became aware of God in your life. You may want to hold your stone…perhaps find a white one for this exercise. Spend some unhurried time thanking Him that he had you in his heart before the beginning of the world, that he came looking for you, and that he had a unique name already prepared for you. Bless him for the people who helped you discover Jesus and grow in him, for the miracles of grace along the way. Now look forward to the time you meet him face to face and for the special moment when he embraces you as an overcomer!
Excerpted from The Stones Cry Out by Chris Mabey. Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2022 by Chris Mabey.