Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Ancient History

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photo(6)This week’s hike took us up a hill northwest of town, where we saw more gray rocks that seemed to be flowing over and encasing other rocks—similar to what I talked about last week. But as we were hiking back, we took a closer look at one patch of gray rocks and discovered that some of them included hundreds of little fossils! photo 1(5)These fossils came in a variety of shapes and sizes, and one even looked like a tiny wing. Fascinating and infinitely varied, these imprints of ancient history seem to indicate another possible cause of the encasement of one type of rock by another: the motion of sea and sand.

It’s hard to imagine that this desert landscape, and these rocks perched high on a hill, were once part of an ancient sea bed, but we know from scientific studies that mountains harbor ancient sea beds in other places as well. These hills are filled with ancient history, about which I know very little because I have not undertaken much study of rocks and the stories that they have to tell.

There is ancient history all around us, no matter where we live. There is also ancient history in our scriptures, and if we do not undertake to study them, we can miss much of what they might have to tell us. Today I am preaching at a local church, and so I have been immersing myself more deeply in a few passages of scripture than I normally would, and it’s been fun to see what caught my attention.

For one thing, rocks appear to be a theme in my life right now. In addition to these rocks I am encountering on my walks, there are rocks mentioned in today’s scripture lessons. For example, Isaiah 51:1b says, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.” The prophet goes on to say that by this he means our spiritual ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. Today’s gospel, in Matthew 16:18a, recounts Jesus saying to another of our spiritual ancestors, “I tell you, you are Peter [which means “rock”], and on this rock I will build my church.”

So I ask you: which spiritual ancestors have been the foundational rocks in your life? What ancient history has shaped you, or left its imprint on you? In what ways are you carrying on their mission?

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