Monday, August 10, 2009

Throwing Rocks

I never realized how rocky the Appalachian mountains were until this week. My boys have hoisted heavy rocks, climbed boulders, and pocketed pebbles. However, their favorite thing to do with rocks is throw them: into the woods, off a ledge, down the slope, into the water. They can't get enough of this.

I was thinking last night about stone throwing in the Bible. David felled Goliath with a stone (at least my guys don't have slingshots--yet). Jesus saved the adulteress from the mob in the Temple, saying "Let him who is without sin among you, cast the first stone." A mob stoned Stephen, while Saul/Paul watched.

Our rock throwing adventures brought to mind something else: a service I attended a few years ago at a local messianic synagogue. Tashlich is a ceremony carried out on the afternoon of Rosh HaShannah or on the following day. Tashlich means "you will cast away" and during the service we symbolically cast off our sins. After a time of reflection and preparation we walked down to Tampa Bay, picking up small stones along the way.* We collected stones to symbolize sins. It was humbling to pocket each stone and feel the weight increase with each new addition. After a time of prayer and repentance we threw our stones into the bay--casting them off as far as we could throw. Those rocks were gone, never coming back, you couldn't have retrieved them from the bottom of the bay if you tried. My pockets felt empty and light.

As we threw our rocks, we remembered that God is faithful to forgive sins, that Jesus (Yeshua) died for our sins, and we meditated on the text for Tashlich: Micah 7:18-20.

Who is a God like You,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?

He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights
in mercy.
19 He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.

You will cast all our
Into the depths of the sea.

20 You will give truth to Jacob
And mercy to Abraham,
Which You have sworn to our fathers
From days of old.

In all the times of confession, in all the worship services I've ever attended, I don't think I've ever felt as forgiven as I did on the shores of Tampa Bay. So much of our Protestant worship is abstract and emotional. It took the weight and feel of throwing rocks to really imprint one of the basic tenets of our faith.

Vacation's almost over. I'll be thinking about this on our final few rock-throwing days--thanking God and praising His holy name.

Shalom y'all.
*Traditionally bread crumbs are cast into the water, or pockets emptied of lint, but some congregations use stones instead.


Lynda S. said...

What a beautiful illustration, Karen, of such important truth.

Joanne Sher said...

What a SUPER word picture and illustration. Wow. Thanks for sharing.

Laury said...

Pocketing rocks and throwing them away - what very cool symbolism. I can just see your boys throwing rocks. Sounds like great fun.

meljkerr said...

Part of the Muslim obligations for completing the Hajj pilgrimage involves throwing small pebbles at three pillars. In the Muslim version of the sacrifice of Isaac (or Ishmael for Muslims) Abraham threw pebbles at the devil to distance himself from the devil's temptation not to obey. To scare the devil off if you will.

I am not a Muslim, but your mention of rock throwing brought it to mind.