Living in a place where rocks are prominent—and they are much more prominent in winter when they take visual precedence over the foliage—makes you think about the role rocks have in God’s creation. The story of the creation of the Mississippi River valley is outside our ability to comprehend and visualize unless you can picture what 800 Olympic size swimming pools of water draining each second looks like. That’s what scoured out the valley we live in when the southern ice dam on glacial lake Agassiz broke about 8 or 9 thousand years ago.
Biblically, rocks are important as places of shelter and protection. And some of the earliest references to rocks are in Exodus, when Moses struck a rock with his staff to get water for the Israelites in the desert. So, we can add nourishment to the role rocks have.
We know that rocks are critical foundations of God’s creation. In Genesis, here’s the account of God’s creation on the third day: 9 God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”
Here, in this area we call the Driftless Area, God’s creation of rocks and water are beautiful and unique. They are not just pleasing to our eyes…they are pleasing to our souls. We can feel the presence of God when we sit peacefully and quietly and contemplate this place God has designed and built for us to enjoy. But beyond enjoyment, God has constructed a place to protect, nurture, and sustain us.
Feeling the presence of God and hearing His words is an intimate experience. The verses from 1 Kings say that the Lord was not in shattered rocks, or the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. God was in a quiet whisper. Even though his voice was a whisper, his guidance to Elijah was compelling. The Lord spoke to him after fasting for 40 days, and this came after Elijah has fled to the desert with an intent to die. He was escaping a hopeless situation where Ahab had killed all the prophets, and only Elijah was left. He was discouraged and prayed to the Lord to take him. He got the quiet message: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” That’s a question that was asked even though the Lord already knew the answer. Elijah was being commissioned to overthrow the pagan worship which preoccupied the chosen people and to bring them back into God’s good graces.
We might say Elijah was “driftless” before his 40 days in the desert. But no one would say he was driftless after the Lord whispered to him.
A second message of empowerment comes from our second reading. Here’s the setting. Jesus had been traveling and conducting miracles along the way, and the disciples were joyfully praising God for every miracle they had seen. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord, and peace and glory in the highest,” they sang and shouted.
This was too much for the Pharisees, who asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Jesus’ response brought rocks into the conversation. He said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, even the rocks will cry out.”
A final example of the role rocks have in God’s world comes from the Gospel of John, which records that when Jesus first met Peter (who was originally called Simon), he said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (John 1:42). Cephas is Aramaic for “stone.” The gospel writer adds that this means “Peter” when translated from Aramaic. This is why Peter is sometimes referred to as “the rock.”
Here we have Simon becoming Peter—the first leader of the new church. After Peter correctly identified Jesus as the promised Messiah, Jesus said: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17–18)
As we sit quietly and enjoy your creation and still ourselves while we listen for your quiet voice, we are open to the mission you have for us…whether small or large. Please help us understand what it is you want us to do. It may not be the big things Elijah, or Moses, or Peter did, but through the Holy Spirit, we pray to hear our mission and to receive the wisdom, words, and energy we need to advance your Word in this world.
1 Kings 19:7-13
Luke 19:38-41 “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”