Dear Family of St John’s

I have to admit that I’ve had a TV advert jingle in my head the whole of Lent. It’s an old one, for a tyre brand, and starts, “Them stones, them stones, them…”  Now that you’re all singing along with me, perhaps it will leave my head! If you’ve attended St John’s during this Lent, you would know that we’ve been talking a lot about stones!

Our Sunday teaching series has been a Journey of Stones.  Starting on the first Sunday of Lent when we looked at ‘Written in Stone’, with God giving Moses the 10 Commandments.  We’ve seen how Jesus was the rejected cornerstone, we’ve looked at ‘Sticks and Stones’, and examined our ‘Hearts of Stone’.  We’ve also seen the faith of Peter when Jesus declared his faith to be the rock on which the Church would be built.

On Palm Sunday Michelle spoke to us about the Stones Crying Out, from the passage in Luke 19 as Jesus processed into Jerusalem. We continued with the theme in our Maundy Thursday service last night, ‘Stones to Bread’.  Today, in our Three-Hour Service, we’ll look at the ‘Final Stone’ that covers the tomb. 

As you’ve arrived at church each Sunday, you’ve received a stone.  Each week these stones have symbolised a sin that forms a barrier between us and God. We’ve had an opportunity in our service to come forward and lay these stones, our sins, at the foot of the cross which stands at the chancel steps. I have been moved each week in this act of coming forward, of acknowledging my sin in a physical action.

In contrast, our Wednesday Bible Study course has taken a different approach to stones.  We’ve been working through the book ‘Stones: Making God’s Faithfulness the Bedrock of Your Faith’, by Kat Armstrong.  Each of the five-week lessons has looked at a different aspect of stones. You’d be amazed at how many times stones are referenced in Scripture!

We’ve seen how Jacob messed up so badly, and yet God was there for him.  God promised to be with him always.  And, to honour that, to remember God’s faithfulness, Jacob sets up a pillar of stones.  This pillar is a sign of his connection to God, and to help him and future generations remember God’s call on his life.

We looked at Moses with the tablets of stone, and how God showed his faithfulness and commitment to a disobedient and stubborn people. God promised to love us no matter what.

We saw in the book of Joshua how, when God parted the River Jordan for the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land, Joshua ordered stones of remembrance to be placed to witness to God’s faithfulness.

And then, we examined how the story of our life is changed because of the empty tomb, God rolls away the stone.  We saw how the women went to share the news of His resurrection and God’s faithfulness in conquering sin and death.

And then, in our final study, we looked at how we, as individuals and the church as a body, are living stones. God is faithful in equipping us through the Holy Spirit as we are commissioned to live out God’s purpose in the world.

Throughout this study, we saw how faithful God was.  We saw that no matter what the characters we encountered in our readings were going through, God was there for them.  Again, and again, and again. God never falters, He never turns away, He never abandons us.

We know about God’s faithfulness and love because people shared their stories.  Throughout history, through oral tradition and then in the writing of the Scriptures, people have shared their experience of God. Imagine if no one ever told anyone else how God had had worked in their life, or what they had experienced of God.  Where would we be?

We are told to tell! Isn’t that what Jesus said to the women at the empty tomb? Isn’t that what He commissioned His disciples to do? (Matthew 28) They did it, they told.  Even when it was difficult.  And countless others have done so in the almost two thousand years since then.  Praise God for their faithfulness!

How are we telling others? How are we sharing our personal stories of God? Each time I hear someone share how God has answered a prayer, or showed His love, I am so encouraged in my own faith.  It doesn’t have to be a dramatic, ‘miracle’ story.  Each story is like a little stone that is being added as testimony to God’s faithfulness in your life. In a similar way Jacob built a pillar of stones to remember what God had done.

I encourage you, be that living stone that speaks about God to others.  Tell your stories so that future generations will know about the Lord who is a living God and still works in our lives today.

Maybe then we’ll sing, ‘Them stones, them stones, them FAITHFUL stones!’

With love

Your friend and rector,