S (Scripture): Joshua 4:1 When the entire nation was on the other side, the Lord told Joshua, 2 “Select for yourselves twelve men from the people, one per tribe. 3 Instruct them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests stand firmly, and carry them over with you and put them in the place where you camp tonight.’”
4 Joshua summoned the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one per tribe. 5 Joshua told them, “Go in front of the ark of the Lord your God to the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to put a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the Israelite tribes. 6 The stones will be a reminder to you. When your children ask someday, ‘Why are these stones important to you?’ 7 tell them how the water of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the water of the Jordan stopped flowing. These stones will be a lasting memorial for the Israelites.”
8 The Israelites did just as Joshua commanded. They picked up twelve stones, according to the number of the Israelite tribes, from the middle of the Jordan as the Lord had instructed Joshua. They carried them over with them to the camp and put them there. 9 Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan in the very place where the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood. They remain there to this very day.
15 The Lord told Joshua, 16 “Instruct the priests carrying the ark of the covenantal laws to come up from the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua instructed the priests, “Come up from the Jordan!” 18 The priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the middle of the Jordan, and as soon as they set foot on dry land, the water of the Jordan flowed again and returned to flood stage.
19 The people went up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month and camped in Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 Now Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan. 21 He told the Israelites, “When your children someday ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones represent?’ 22 explain to your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you while you crossed over. It was just like when the Lord your God dried up the Red Sea before us while we crossed it. 24 He has done this so all the nations of the earth might recognize the Lord’s power and so you might always obey the Lord your God.”
O (Observation): God parts the waters again!!! This time Joshua is at the helm. The priests carry the ark of the Covenant to the waters of the Jordan River (opposite Jericho), and as soon as they set foot in the waters, the waters start piling up upriver, making it possible for God’s people to start actually setting foot in the Promised Land.
God’s grace allows for God’s people to work towards the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham generations ago.
How will they be able to remember this story for generations to come? Set up a monument. 12 stones – 1 for each tribe represented. So that one day, a parent can say to a child, “You see those stones there? They used to be at the bottom of the Jordan River.” “Why are they up here? How did they get here?” And you can imagine how the rest of the story goes.
Remembrances of God’s promises and the grace God doled out to a people who didn’t deserve what they got…that is the story of old. And perhaps it’s our story.
A (Application): We see statues of soldiers and monuments erected for various historical value. Church buildings use cornerstones as markers of dates for when a church is established or the building erected.
We have lots of ways of recalling certain actions, certain monumental moments in our individual and communal lives.
Jesus also gave us 2 particular monuments that stand the test of time, and are not limited by a geographical location. We have the sacraments: Holy Baptism, Holy Communion.
I remind our young ones in our congregation several times a month of the gift of baptism and how it creates a scenario in which all can live out the love of God, equally. No matter what we’ve done or who we are, God takes us in our baptism and allows the Spirit’s work to be done in us and through us.
I remind the congregation, regularly, of the importance of Holy Communion. We come to the table, broken and in need of help…all of us! We are all a bunch of “fixer-uppers” who receive grace in this sacrament, and encouragement to go and do something in this world that brings love, peace, and hope.
These monuments – these Sacraments – are made of earthly stuff and transform us from death to life, from brokenness to wholeness, from despair to hope. When we remember our baptism, let us also remember God’s people stepping into the Jordan, willing and afraid and hope-filled. When we drink the wine and eat the bread, let us remember God feeding the Hebrew people with manna, sustaining them in their wilderness experience.
P (Prayer): God, we thank you for the sacraments, signs of your love made real and tangible for us, your grace in our place. Amen.