Stolpersteine
Pause for thought

Stolpersteine

Written by: | Posted on: | Category:

I suspect that many of you, like me, have some interminable background task that gets some attention from time to time. For me it is cataloging the thousands of photographs spinning merrily away on my hard drive or in the cloud! I was reminded of this the other day when looking for a photograph in my collection. 

At the time of passing of loved ones, we inevitably come across photographs that are frozen recollections of events in a family and the lives of individuals. It is fascinating to to be able to put names to faces and dates to events and beyond frustrating when the photograph is not accompanied by the “who, when, where and why” behind the picture. In days of yore, I.e. before smartphone cameras and digital storage, our forbears would often write these details on the back of the physical print of the picture, but now it takes time and effort to add this metadata to each image, but not doing so may rob those who come after us of important details of our lives.

The thought that prompted all this nostalgia comes from a verse from Joshua:

“When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.”

Joshua 4:21-22 KJV

The standard way of commemorating an important event before the advent of photography, and is often still used today,  was to build a monument — usually out of stones. The Scottish word for such a monumental pile of stones has passed into English as a “cairn”.

Stolpersteine

I was searching my online collection of photographs for one of the “Stolpersteine” or “Stumbling Stones” we encountered during a tour of Germany some years ago. More than 45,000 of these stones are solidly rooted across cities in Europe, including 916 places in Germany alone, where large strides have been taken to memorialize Jewish life, history and culture. Each Stolperstein commemorates a victim of the Holocaust at that person’s last known address. The plaque includes the victim’s name, date of birth, deportation date and death date, if known. In Berlin, more than 5,000 Stolpersteine have been carefully implanted in the city’s sidewalks and streets, serving as a constant reminder of the many valuable lives lost tragically during the Holocaust. A quick Google search will give you much detail which would just derail my train of thought here.

In the Bible a distinction is always made between “rocks” and “stones”. Rocks always imply permanence, faithfulness and steadfastness, while stones are objects to be used by men for some purpose. Beginning in the Old Testament in the midst of a series of laws regulating the treatment of others, we find this admonition:

Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD” [Leviticus 19:4 KJV]. 

Obviously, putting a rock or brick in front of a blind person is cruel and evil, but the New Testament takes the practical rule and turns it into a spiritual metaphor. After Peter rebuked Jesus, denying the crucifixion would take place, Jesus said,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” [Matthew 16:23 NIV]

Peter, under the influence of Satan, was trying to distract Jesus from what He had come to do. He was trying to make Jesus “stumble” in His path to the crucifixion.

But most of the time, a “stumbling block” refers to something or someone who keeps another from a relationship with God. If you really want to get Jesus riled up, consider his words in Matthew’s gospel:

 “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”  Matthew 18:5-7

In the Kingdom perspective, it would be better to drown than lead a child into sin. Stumbling blocks also arise when the path is a little more ambiguous. The mature Christian life allows some freedoms that seem contrary to an obedient, disciplined faith. The Corinthians were much concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Modern issues include drinking alcohol in moderation or political activities. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church:

But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” [1 Corinthians 8:9]

Note that our liberty is not worth another’s walk with God. If something God allows would lead another to sin, we need to avoid it. 

Which leads me to my last stone, the “corner” stone or what today we call a “foundation” stone.

Building a structure always requires a point of reference from which measurements can be made. If everyone in a project is using a different point of reference chaos ensues, but when measurements are taken from the cornerstone an architectural wonder can result. As Paul told the Ephesians:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:19-22] 

And Peter: “…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 2:5]

So let us purpose to be, through the power of the Holy Spirit, living stones, building up the body of Christ, taking measurement and direction from our cornerstone, and being careful and diligent never to become a stumbling stone. Let our lives be a living monument to the grace of God.

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Saturday April 16th, 2022
Later
Sunday April 3rd, 2022
Earlier