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The Stones Will Cry Out

by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
March 28, 1999 ~ Palm Sunday

Readings

Exodus 24:9-13 Sapphire stone as clear as the sky

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandments that I have written for their instruction."

Then Moses set out with Joshua his assistant, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.

Luke 19:28-40 The triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'"

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

They replied, "The Lord needs it."

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to joyfully praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop!"

He replied, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

Arcana Coelestia #9407 Deeper truth shining through

"A pavement made of sapphire stone" means the quality of the literal meaning of the Bible when we perceive the deeper meaning within it. When this happens, divine truth flowing from the Lord shines through it, just as it does in heaven. For the Bible is divine truth flowing from the Lord....

When our lives are ruled by goodness, and from this goodness we are guided by truth, we are lifted up into that divine light.... This gives us a general enlightenment through which the Lord enables us to see countless truths, and to perceive them from goodness. When we are in this state of mind, the Lord leads us to grasp and absorb the true ideas that will be most helpful to us.


Sermon

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to joyfully praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop!" He replied, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37-40)

The stones will cry out. It's a nice bit of hyperbole. But on that particular day, the disciples could have believed that almost anything was possible. This, they knew, was the greatest day their nation had ever seen. The Messiah, long prophesied, was entering the city in triumph to establish the Kingdom of God, and to rule the nations from Jerusalem. This was an event that reached right up to heaven. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" they shouted. "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Of course, in hindsight we know that their hopes of an earthly kingdom were soon to be dashed. The triumph of Palm Sunday would seemingly end in the death of their great king on the cross. The nation of Israel, instead of becoming the ruler of the world, was soon destroyed by the Roman Empire, and its people scattered throughout the then-known world. And yet, we still celebrate Palm Sunday nearly two thousand years later. And we still read those cryptic words of Jesus, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

Now, you and I both know that stones are inanimate objects, and they do not cry out. Not without a little help anyway. Some of you may remember using a crystal radio set in your younger days. I had one that I liked to play around with, even though there were much better radios by that time. At the heart of that crystal radio was an actual crystal, which is simply a highly organized type of stone. The crystal in the radio did not "cry out" by itself, but took the incoming signal and helped to convert it into sounds that we could hear in the earphone. Even today, many radio transmitters and receivers use quartz crystals.

Now, I doubt this was what Jesus was talking about when he said that if the disciples kept quiet, the stones would cry out. Even if radios had existed at the time of the Lord, I suspect he would have been less interested in the technology than in the message it carried. And even if his words to the Pharisees may have been a bit of hyperbole, there was a deeper message behind them. This was an event that had to be celebrated. It may not have been the beginning of an earthly kingdom, but it was the beginning of a great spiritual kingdom.

Just as the crystal in a radio only puts out sounds that come to it in the form of radio waves that are transmitted through the electromagnetic field, the words of the Lord come alive only when their deeper meaning shines through to our minds. And to grasp the meaning of his words, we need to look deeper, to their spiritual sense. For this, we get help from a strangely beautiful passage in the book of Exodus--at the time the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments--and from Swedenborg's equally beautiful explanation of it. We read:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself.

"Something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself." We can imagine the scene laid out in front of these seventy-four leaders of Israel: the great Jehovah, appearing to them as a glorious human being, standing on a floor of pure, blue crystal with the sun shining through it just as the sun shines through the blue sky and gives light to everything below. Perhaps they even saw Jehovah as the source of that sunlight shining through the sapphire firmament. It was a rare and beautiful sight.

When we look into its deeper meaning, we find that the translucent sapphire stone of the vision is an image of the literal meaning of the Bible when the deeper, spiritual meanings within shine through to our open and receptive minds.

This openness to a deeper meaning within does not happen when we read the Bible simply out of curiosity, or from scholarly interest, or as a historical or cultural text that gives insight on earlier periods of humanity. When we read the Bible from these or any other human perspective, it is simply a collection of ancient myth, cultural history, poetry, stories, and religious teachings. Nothing more shines through because our mind is not looking for anything more in it. The stories are ordinary rocks, not translucent crystals.

But it is different when, from goodness and love in our hearts, we look to the Bible stories to gain understanding and enlightenment to help us live in a good and loving way. When we approach the Bible in this spirit, we gradually begin to see deeper meanings for our own lives. The stories come alive for us, and we see in them reflections of our spiritual struggles and triumphs. We see the story of our own spiritual journey told in the journeys and struggles of the people of the Bible. And we gain insights that help us to take the next steps along our path.

The story of Palm Sunday offers an especially beautiful message to our open hearts. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Jesus' entry into Jerusalem did not bring political peace to the troubled people of Palestine. Politically speaking, his presence brought not peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).

But he did offer a much deeper peace to those whose hearts were open to his presence and his teaching. He offered people then--and continues to offer to us today--the peace of knowing that we are loved and forgiven; the peace of knowing that God created each one of us for a purpose; the peace of knowing that we are created as precious human crystals, able to receive the love and wisdom that comes from God, and transmit it to others as we show them the love and the kindness that God has shown us. Jesus offers each one of us the peace that passes understanding, deep within our souls.

The source of that peace is the knowledge that our Lord and Savior is the king and ruler of the world, God with us, enlightening us and showing us the way. As the Gospel of John says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. . . . He was the true light that enlightens every person coming into the world" (John 1:4, 9).

This is what we celebrate on Palm Sunday. We celebrate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, entering the Jerusalem of our inmost heart and highest mind to bring the joyful message that God, the Lord, is the true king and the true light of our lives. And if the stones could cry out today, I am sure that is exactly what they would be saying. Amen.


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Music: Conversations with my Soul
1999 Bruce DeBoer

 

 
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