An invitation to paint rocks -- and put feet to our faith

  • While walking the trails, the Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos has found painted rocks with encouraging messages, including this one with the colors of the Ukrainian flag and a red heart.

    While walking the trails, the Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos has found painted rocks with encouraging messages, including this one with the colors of the Ukrainian flag and a red heart. Courtesy of the Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos

  • The Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos

    The Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos

 
By The Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos
Special to the Daily Herald
Posted8/17/2022 1:16 PM

During the height of COVID, quarantined artists in my community found creative expression for their talent. They painted rocks and left them camouflaged on the nature trail where my wife and I walk several days a week.

Happening upon them was like finding hidden Easter eggs.

 

The messages and images on the brightly colored stones were uplifting. They reminded us to mask up and reach out to one another, all the while maintaining social distance.

A few months ago, I discovered a painted stone perched near a tree on our trail.

At first glance, it reminded me of a multicolored oblong-shaped Rubik's cube. But upon closer examination, I realized it was a rock with the colors of the Ukrainian flag and a red heart.

The realization prompted a holy moment of introspection.

That unnamed artist unexpectedly and unknowingly challenged me to live out the values we celebrated last month while grilling burgers and watching fireworks.

That brightly colored stone reminded me that freedom can't be taken for granted. It must be defended and preserved at all cost.

With a stroke of a paintbrush, the rock painter demonstrated love for people we have never met who are defending their homeland all the while fighting for the freedoms we take for granted.

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That painted rock was a sermon of sorts. Its message found its mark.

Similar sermons are being "preached" all around us. It warms my heart to see my neighbors flying Ukrainian flags.

Similarly, we see messages on social media continually calling us to support Ukraine. Residents at the retirement home where I work have created Ukrainian flags out of light blue and bright yellow construction paper.

They display these makeshift banners in their windows.

In our Sunday worship services, we pray for President Zelenskyy and the innocent victims of Putin's war.

Decades ago, Edgar Guest (known as the people's poet) wrote one of his more memorable rhymes called "Sermons We See."

In it he mused about how belief is best communicated. As a pastor and as a poet, I am inspired by Guest's words and his example.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.

The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,

Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear;

And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

Flying a flag. Painting a rock. Writing a letter to a congressman. Contributing to organizations that sponsor displaced refugees. Praying for God to change the heart of a warmongering Russian president.

All these are ways to dress our values in work clothes and put feet to our faith.

A first-century follower of Jesus "painted a rock" by writing a letter. His name was James.

Against a backdrop of Christians whose faith was ethereal and philosophical, James swam upstream against the tide of popular option. What he scrawled on a scroll of parchment promoted the concept of "practicing what we preach."

St. James wrote, someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Another well-known saint by the name of Francis is sometimes credited with having said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

Based on the research I have done, St. Francis didn't actually say those words. But his life of action and reaction underscores their truth.

Validating our values with good works is essential.

So, how about it? Let's start "painting rocks."

• The Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former Naperville resident who writes about faith and family.

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