Over the last several months I have been thinking a lot about my time here at the Community Church of Pine Run. We have been through a lot together, good times and hard, but God has always been faithful. As I have thought on this, my mind has returned often to the story of the Israelites following Joshua into the Promised Land. In chapter 3 of the Book of Joshua, we find that God has told the People to consecrate themselves – to prepare themselves – so that they would be ready for what God was going to do among them. Then, God parted the Jordan River, in a manner that was very similar to the way He had parted the Red Sea for their parents a generation before when Moses was leading them out of slavery in Egypt. And just like the way God left behind a memorial in the Red Sea in form of the Egyptian chariots and their weapons of oppression, so also, here in Joshua, God commands the leaving of a memorial.
The purpose of a memorial is, just as the name implies, to have an object that brings to mind something of importance. So in Joshua 4, as the Israelites are crossing through the river, they collected 12 stones which they piled up on the other side:
Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future, your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord, your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24, NLT)
The reason this story is so poignant to me at this time is that in so many ways, God has brought this congregation through crazy insurmountable obstacles as well. From my first few months here when my family and I slept on the floor of the church until God used Habitat to provide us with a home; to the miraculous way, we were able to pay off the loan for the addition on the church. From the resiliency, we have shown repeatedly in the face of adversity and conflict – choosing unity and love over selfishness and ego, to stepping out in faith and using the finances entrusted to us by God to invest in my ministry here. At every turn, I see God’s Hand at work here in our midst, and I see where you have followed Him.
The thing is, if we are not careful, we will forget all of the Lord’s great acts. This is why the Psalmist says:
Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exalt in his holy name;
Rejoice, you who worship the Lord. (Psalm 105:1-3, NLT)
It is necessary that we continually remind ourselves, and that we remind one another, that our God is always faithful. That He has promised to never leave or forsake us and that even when we feel like we are in the darkest valley, even in the very shadow of death, He is there with us. We have nothing to fear.
As a Community we need those memorials, as Individuals, we need those memorials; so that our children and our grandchildren will see and know, and ultimately, so that the world may know.