“Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, `What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4 vv 5-7
What short memories most of us have! I say ‘most of us’ because I do know a few people who seem to remember everything, like what I said to them in 1989 when we stood on the pavement with traffic roaring by and exchanged a few pleasantries. They probably even remember what I was wearing, and what they had for dinner that day! Now, I’m not like that – in fact I am more likely to be unable to remember what I had for dinner yesterday! How about you?
It was with this forgetfulness in mind that God planned memory-joggers. No videos can be taken of the event, not even black-and-white photos, so God has them construct a cairn by the river, just 12 substantial stones heaped up on the river bank. God has often done that kind of thing. The Passover Meal was a time to remember and recall the Exodus – a time to remind adults and children alike of something God has done. The prophet Samuel did much the same thing after a particular battle (1 Sam 7 v 12) ‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.”’
Jesus instituted what we call ‘Communion’ for exactly the same reason. We are forgetful and we need reminding often about God’s actions on our behalf. The moment we start forgetting the past we lose contact with our history of God’s dealings with us.
For reflection: We should never live in the past, but it is right to remember God’s faithfulness and mighty power if we are to move forward with confidence. Have you got any sacred memories?