‘Surely this is stony ground
On which to build Your kingdom?
Surely, Lord, You might have found
A firmer rock than me?’
You might not know these lyrics. They’re by Paul Field, from an album and musical he wrote about the last days of Christ’s life, called Daybreak. I had a small part in our local churches’ production many years ago. I think I even have a recording on tape (yes, a tape, that’s how long ago it was!) hidden away at the back of a shelf somewhere, where I can pick out my mercifully few but cringingly embarrassing solo lines.
I used to sing in public quite a lot when I was younger – a local Christian band leading worship and holding concerts in the church hall, two musicals (five if you count three more at school), a music group at College in the Christian Union and Chapel services, and a choir.
Some pieces of music that I learned have stayed with me and this is one of them. I only sang harmonies on the chorus but picked up the whole song along the way. And its lyrics came to mind for today’s Jesse Tree symbol.
Stone can have negative connotations – impervious, inflexible, hard, cold; in this case, it speaks of barrenness and lack of progress. I definitely experience times when, like Peter singing this song, I feel like a failure, like I am only running to keep up, or even falling behind compared to everyone else.
However, as the Parable of the Sower doesn’t point out but surely any gardener or farmer must infer, stony ground can be improved – by removing the pebbles, adding fertiliser and mulch, or by planting alpines that thrive in such conditions. None of this is easy. It takes sustained hard work to succeed. But Jesus tells us that His Father is a gardener and that should give us hope.
So when I feel like my life is overfull with cares and mistakes, when it all seems like too much hard going, I need to submit to the Great Gardener Himself to sift the soil of my life and trust that He will grow something beautiful in me in due season.