The Stones Cry ©

Please see Bishop Lowry's video message for Holy Week at the end of this blog post.

 “As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,  saying,
          “Blessed is the king
               who comes in the name of the Lord!
          Peace in heaven,
              and glory in the highest heaven!”
 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 out.”

(Luke 19:37-40, NRSV)

I remember the joy of visiting Jerusalem approximately 20 years ago. One day we went up on the ridge overlooking the holy city. Spreading down before us was the slope that held the Garden of Gethsemane with the Kidron Valley below it and the old city walls rising on the other side in the distance. We walked down and then stopped in a cemetery with our guide pointing out various sites of interest. He noted that this must have been the path Jesus walked as he headed down into Jerusalem. On the graves, many of which were above-ground vaults, there were small stones placed. The cemetery was ancient and preceded Jesus’ ministry. The stones, our guide said, were placed there in remembrance and respect for a loved one lost and for the life given.
“Even the stones would cry out!” Said Jesus. Surely, he means that even the inanimate objects of nature would cry out in praise. But I think he means more. The shouting stones give testimony to who He is and what He does. I think they cry out in praise as a foreshadowing of his conquering death. They shout aloud an affirmation of who he is and we this day are invited to join all creation in such praise. It is not only holy; it is the praise that can lead us through the rough places of life and place our feet on higher ground. 
I thank you for your faithfulness and creativity!
As I reflect on the Palm Sunday triumph this year, I confess that I find myself embracing it lightly. I know, as do you, the rest of the story. As the week unfolds biblically, we move through the conflict at the temple, the plot to arrest Jesus, the sham trial, the brutal whipping, the agonized walk on the way of the cross and finally the horror of the crucifixion. Words from the 19th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel frame the drama of this week we call holy...
 “and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.” (John 19:17)
It is here that I invite us to pause and reflect, for this year, we are journeying through a very different Holy Week.

Biblical scholars talk about “Psalms of Lament.” They are places of special grief and anguish. Psalm 74 is one such example. It speaks to the grief and lament we feel both individually and collectively during this COVID-19 Pandemic.
“O God, why do you cast us off forever?
    Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago,
which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.”  (Psalm 19:1-2)
Take a moment and reflect.
Even as we offer thanks and praise for the creativity of how we are staying connected and holding services via our online worship, this is a time of lament and grief. This is not the Holy Week we have planned for. Love ones are ill and dying in our communities and around the world. There is feeling of oppression and imprisonment.  How long, O Lord, will this pandemic last!
Pause reverently here.
Our grief is real. Our loss of life, of jobs, of possibilities, of health – is genuine. In small measure, we are tasting sacrifice. Christ’s was so much greater. We must be careful that we do not jump too quickly from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. Come to the cross. Share again in lament. Psalm 80, one of the great Psalms of Lament speaks for us. “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7)
Here at the cross is the hinge of history. It is here we must come and join those who gaze at distance upon the Christ - the Savior. Our very future comes through the cross!

“Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
    and put away your indignation toward us. …

Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:4, 7)

"The Stones Cry" A Holy Week Message from Bishop Mike Lowry from Central Texas Conference UMC on Vimeo.