Summary: Memorial Stones that we place along our pathway mark significant events in our lives where God helped us and these encourage us in our current journey.
Iliff & Saltillo UM
May 30, 2004
Memorial Day Weekend
INTRODUCTION: Today is Memorial Day Sunday. It may mean different things to different people and how we observe it now and how we have observed it in the past. There may be parades and special Memorial Day services to remember those who fought for our country and who died in wars. It is a time to visit cemeteries and put flowers on the graves to remember parents, grandparents, and other who have gone on before. It is a time set aside for reflection and being with family and friends. Maybe a time for picnics or cooking out. It marks a transition into summer activities. It is a time to stop and remember to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.
In today’s scripture we find a common custom of Old Testament times--that of raising Memorial Stones. The purpose was to preserve the memory of an event for future generations. We might call these stones "conversation pieces." These particular stones, set up in two places, were intended to raise questions so that the story of God’s miraculous intervention might be told over and over. Remembering was a way for future generations to participate in the great acts that God had already done for Israel. That is similar to our various traditions today.
Joshua saw the importance of these stones for future generations as a memorial to the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. They were always to be celebrated by Israel because they marked the Exodus from Egypt (bondage) to their entrance into the Promised Land (freedom). They were a sign of Israel’s transition from slavery to freedom, and they weren’t to forget what God had done.
They may have piled the stones in a heap or at Gilgal they may have placed them in a circle. Gilgal comes from the Hebrew word galal meaning to "roll" and there may have already been a circle of stones there because research says that there were "sculptured stones near Gilgal."
Joshua had chosen 12 men, one from every tribe to particpate in collecting these stones for the memorial. This was a testimony to the fact that all 12 tribes were in the wilderness together, and they all entered Canaan at the same time.
Of the two sets of stones one was piled up right in the middle of the river bed where the priests stood with the ark of the covenant. The other was set up at Gilgal--showing where they had been and where they were now. As they looked back to the one that stood in the middle of the river they could see how God had brought them through a seemingly impossible spot--through the overflowing Jordan which was at flood stage.
Knowing some of the background for this scripture, what does it say to us today? What about our Memorial Stones? Do we have any and what is significant about them for us?
1. Our Memorial Stones serve as an encouragement to us--We all have "Memorial Stones" whether we have thought about it or not. Most of the time we rush through the weeks and months without much thought to where we have been or what God is doing in our lives. But there are mileposts along the way that we remember--our baptism, our confirmation, graduation, marriage, the birth of children and grandchildren, graduation from college, when we sang our first solo or made our first speech, when we first came to the Lord...One woman had an unusual memorial stone.
A woman’s husband dies and she has only $20,000 to her name.
After everything is done at the funeral home and cemetery, she tells her closest friend that she has no money left.
The friend says, "How can that be? You told me you still had $20,000 left just a few days before your husband died. How could you be broke?"
The widow says, "Well, the funeral home cost me $5,000. And of course,I had to make the obligatory donation to the church, so that was another
$5,000. The rest went for the memorial stone."
The friend says, "$10,000 for the memorial stone? Wow, how big was it?"
Extending her left hand, the widow says, "Three carats."
More important, though, is looking back and remembering certain events in our life when God brought us through some difficult thing, and you knew that it was definitely God’s intervention. You might have written down something in the margin of your Bible and dated it. You might have a special momento of this event that reminds you today of it. It could be a picture--this was when...and it serves as not only a reminder to you of the event but also as a conversation piece to tell others your story.