Listening To Rock

Petrified Forest, Arizona
By on April 1, 2023

A year ago, my husband and I were visiting friends in Crystal Springs, Nevada, a wee (wee) community located in the Amargosa Desert. On Palm Sunday morning, I joined Christ followers around the world in hearing the story of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” all over again…and for the very first time, this is what jumped out at me.

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples [who were praising Jesus] to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you if these were silent the stones would shout out.’” (Luke 19: 39-40, NRSVUE)

I gazed out across the desert. Hmmmm. Even though commentators write that Jesus was not suggesting that the stones were actually shouting out, it made me wonder: Were the dusky red rock layers of the distant hills resounding with praise this morning? Was each grain of sand on the desert floor humming a hosanna? Imagine, then, their response to Jesus’ death on the Cross only a few days later, and the rock symphony of Hallelujahs on Easter morning.

Scientifically speaking, rocks are inanimate. They don’t move on their own and mainly, they are silent. One Psalmist suggests that the “silent” inanimate elements that make up the backbone of Creation — stars, sun, moon, snow, rain, air, fire, and yes, rocks — have lots to teach us:

Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

(Psalm 19: 2-4, The Message)

And Thomas Merton, American monk, writer, and mystic (1915-1968), once referred to the elements as “spiritual directors and novice masters.” I have to say that too often I take these particular spiritual directors and their “unspoken truth” for granted.

…Ahhh, but If only we had ears (and time) to listen. Shhh…do you hear a story from the rocks hidden deep under your feet about God’s steadfastness?

…And/or, perhaps, a tale about patience? Remembering that, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” (2 Peter 3: 8, NRSVUE) Do rocks ask if we can be as patient as they are, as patient even as God, our common Creator?

And/or is there a truth about the constancy of change? Rock slides and earthquakes aside, and thanks to the “rock cycle,” rocks are being continually transformed. Just like us. Don’t forget, the granite and gneiss divulge, as humans proceed through our own version of weathering, erosion, burial, compression, melting, metamorphosis, and uplift, change is a fact of life. So, trust. Trust the words of the New Creed (The United Church of Canada): “We are not alone…. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.” (Ps 139) Now that’s worth a hearty Hallelujah or a thousand!

…If we only had ears (and time) to listen, what might we hear this Eastertide?


  • Catherine Ripley

    Catherine Ripley is a member of the Spiritual Development Committee, Kootenay Diocese BC

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