The Solid Rock

A few years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to hike a glacier in Alaska. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I was determined to experience the beauty of God’s creation firsthand. I am a runner by choice, so I assumed I was fit enough for the venture. I was wrong. The uphill, rocky, wild, and slippery climb was terrifying. 

     Having to lift my foot higher than the opposite knee to keep moving upward was exhausting, and the beauty of the dancing and spraying waterfalls only made the rocky path more treacherous. There were no railings or guardrails, just slippery rocks and wet foliage. Worse yet, experienced hikers and climbers older than me kept passing me as though I was standing still … which I would have preferred doing! 

     The experience reminded me of the danger of slippery slopes, whether they are physical or spiritual. Who has not been in that critical moment of realizing that to move forward with an idea, a temptation, or inappropriate pursuit meant risking falling hard off the path that God calls us to pursue? In terms of brain development, risk assessment is not as well developed in our youth as it becomes with age and experience. We have all put our souls on a slippery slope at one point or another.

     Fortunately, we have a God whose faithful love steadies us and whose comfort calms us. Unlike the glacier trek that we find ourselves on, God is a dry and stable rock of refuge for our unstable tendencies.

     This thought is especially comforting when we are being assaulted by evildoers. When the wicked gang up against us, God commands us to be still and not respond. Psalm 94 reminds us that God will destroy the wicked for their evil and we are to stand still on the rock of this promise.

Psalm 24:16-23 (The Message)

Who stood up for me against the wicked?
    Who took my side against evil workers?
If God hadn’t been there for me,
    I never would have made it.
The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,”
    your love, God, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
    you calmed me down and cheered me up.

20-23 Can Misrule have anything in common with you?
    Can Troublemaker pretend to be on your side?
They ganged up on good people,
    plotted behind the backs of the innocent.
But God became my hideout,
    God was my high mountain retreat,
Then boomeranged their evil back on them:
    for their evil ways he wiped them out,
    our God cleaned them out for good.

To attempt retribution on our own is a sure way to slide downhill into the behavior of the evildoers, making us just like them. This is an important teaching. God will take up our cause and bring the wicked to justice. Leave it be, says the Lord. Vengeance is God’s alone (Romans 12:19).

     I eventually made it down from the glacier, and you will arrive safely from your arduous trek if you put your life and your safety in God’s hands. God is the one who will stand up for us and help us when havoc wreaks in our lives and our feet feel unsure. As we sing in the hymn, “On Christ the solid rock I stand! All other ground is sinking sand.” (My Hope is Built, United Methodist Hymnal p. 368).

Slippery Slope

Living Stones

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with stones. Every time we traveled, I brought home some kind of rock or stone in my pocket. One time we were camping at the Greenwood State Furnace in Central Pennsylvania, and my cousin and I discovered the jackpot of rocks. The old iron furnace that was on the property was surrounded by “slag,” which was a by-product of the iron smelting process that had taken place there. Slag was a glossy black and green glass-rock, and it could be tumbled and polished into beautiful objects. I probably had over a hundred pieces of slag stones.

In 1 Peter, we see Christ referred to as a “living stone.” This image contrasts the hard permanence of a stone with the qualities of living, breathing vibrancy. It is then expanded to include us, and paints a picture of a spiritual house being built with our sturdy, living stones:

1 Peter 2

Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone that people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honored. And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. It is just as God says in the Scriptures,

“Look! I am placing in Zion
a choice and precious
No one who has faith
in that one
    will be disappointed.”

This is a beautiful image for us when we feel as though our own houses are crumbling around us. Life-changes such as death, job loss, divorce, and pandemics leave us feeling vulnerable and insecure. Remembering the sure foundation that is Christ, our rock, helps us to know that we are standing on his solid cornerstone. We cannot be moved.

You are followers of the Lord, and that stone is precious to you. But it isn’t precious to those who refuse to follow him. They are the builders who tossed aside the stone that turned out to be the most important one of all. They disobeyed the message and stumbled and fell over that stone, because they were doomed.

My parents understood my fascination with the slag rocks, and took a small and particularly beautiful one to a friend who had a rock tumbler. It came back shiny and polished, and the tumbling revealed the marbleized streaks that were hidden under the rock’s bubbly exterior. My Dad had it mounted on a necklace for me. It was oddly shaped, but I loved it.

I proudly wore this the next time we went camping with our camping club. A somewhat tactless dad took one look at it and said, “What an ugly rock!” I was devastated. His wife chastised him, and the poor fellow spent the rest of the weekend trying to apologize for his hastily spoken words. My parents encouraged me to realize that not everyone saw beauty the same way. But obviously the sting of that critical remark stayed with me.

Rejection of our ideals and theology can feel that way. When a family member or good friend ridicules our faith, we feel the sting. Jesus isn’t precious to those who refuse to follow him. When that happens, and it will, try to remember that you are God’s chosen one. You are special to God. You belong to a royal family. Not everyone sees beauty the same way.

But you are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say,

10 “Once you were nobody.
    Now you are God’s people.
At one time no one
    had pity on you.
Now God has treated you
    with kindness.

On Christ the solid rock we stand…all other ground is sinking sand. Now go and tell all the wonderful things that he has done.

Greenwood State Furnace by Mary Anne Mong Cramer