Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Living Stones"

Here on Easter weekend, when thoughts turn to renewal of our spiritual lives, of the greening of our land, of refreshing rain, and life-yielding soil, I can’t look at a rock and see only an innate object. From pinhead-sized grains of stone to high mountains, they are dynamic and to me represent the substance of the planet that allows organisms to thrive.

The epitome of summer, the sand we love to sink our toes into at the water’s edge has a far greater importance than giving us joy. In our gardens it prevents soil from packing too firmly; thus facilitates the growth of plant roots and the flow of air in the soil. Sand is not alive, and its usefulness rarely given a thought. But what is used to produce the glass jug that contains ice-water, so welcome on a hot day? –Rock decomposed into sand.

It is little wonder the Bible is full of references to rock, stones, and sand. As it does today, rock had practical applications; it was abundant, and rare specimens were valued for their beauty.

But most rocks are nondescript—simply hard masses of compressed minerals, usually neutral in color, and dull. Yet, I can imagine Jesus and His disciples reaching down now and again to pick up a stone along the roads or lakeside because it stood out from those around it. I look at rocks in our travels or in pictures and sense a connection—a kind of lifeline—to those days, to our shared world, however changed, it consists of the same basic materials.

 My travel souvenirs are cheap (or were before airlines charged for checked bags). My favorites are fossilized rocks containing imprints of ancient life forms, and fossilized tree branches, their cells so completely silicated that the bark still looks like wood from a recently-felled tree.

I wonder about the plants that once grew in the variegated layers of certain stratified rock, and how many microscopic animals comprised the brilliantly white pebbles I collected along the shores of Lake Winnipeg. I’m curious about what escaping gasses formed the tunnels in the volcanic specimens in my yard. Crystals in cracks of chalcedony fascinate me, and now that we have DNA testing, I wonder what residual evidence of unknown ancient life exists deep inside them.

Earlier this year a daily devotional I was reading began with a quotation from 1 Peter 2:5. The author of the devotional drew an analogy between stones and mosaics. The premise: stones once chipped to pieces and arranged to create mosaic murals seemed to take on something akin to life. Perhaps some would agree with that author: before rocks can represent life, they must be painstakingly manipulated into mosaics or sculpture, or melted into separate elements for artistic casting.

Each to his own. Long before I discovered dozens of commentaries on the passage, 1Peter 2:5, the analogy between the Christian and “living stones” made perfect sense to me.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson
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 Normally I write about writing on weekends, but I felt this special weekend deserved  a change. --b

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