Gathering Up the Stones

The title of this blog comes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:

“For everything there is a season
and for every matter a time under the heavens.
A time to give birth and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot what has been planted….
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books, but chapter 3 is one of my least favorites (its simpering poetry is overused, often at the expense of other parts of the book; give me real poetry, I say). At any rate, I was suffering through this verse a couple weeks ago, dreaming of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 (why doesn’t anyone ever preach on that?), and realized that perhaps I was underestimating the vintage platitude in 3:1-15.

“A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones.” This is my favorite line of the poem because it’s so ambiguously metaphorical. (So ambiguous that some scholars like Robert Gordis argue “gathering stones” is a metaphor for sex, while throwing stones means sexual restraint and chastity.) But whether you take it metaphorically or literally, the church is in quite a state about stones today. Many–especially in the United States–say the church is shrinking because it isn’t throwing enough stones. In order to bring more people in, we need to be clearer about who is out. But if we call ourselves Christians after the God-incarnate Jesus Christ, the one who ate with sinners and tax collectors, who said, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone,” Christ who is called the cornerstone of the church–what should we do with our stones, metaphorical and literal?

It’s a time for gathering stones. This blog, cumulatively, will be my own effort to gather stones–to gather up the theology and the daily activity of church and build something big enough to love all the people Jesus calls us to love–which is, by the way, everybody. To set different ideas alongside each other, struggling to form a coherent, holistic Anabaptist theology. I am, myself, one of these gathered stones–a young urban woman, not from a Mennonite family, yet pastoring in a Mennonite congregation. This is the church building up instead of tearing down. Glad to have you along for the ride–metaphorically or literally.

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