Good morning, Calvary. My name is Melanie Salte and I am a member of the Teaching Team here at Calvary.
Today is going to be the last installment of our series “For Such a Time as This”. The teachings we have shared with you in the last two months have been our honest reflections as we consider what it means to live faithfully in these strange times. Next week, we will be continue our study of the book of Matthew.
Today, as we come to the end of this series, as we seem to be coming to the end of severe restrictions, as shops begin to reopen and we begin to step outside and into the world with others again, I invite you to remember.
Remember the day before everything closed, the day before restrictions were given. What did your life look like? What rhythms of life were your normal?
And then these two months happened.
We have a choice before us as life starts to get back to normal-ish. We can pretend the last two months didn’t exist. A weird glitch in the system, let’s just get back on track. Or we can wonder about what we’ve experienced, what we’ve learned about ourselves and God and let that have an impact on our future.
I want to tell you a story. It’s a story found in Joshua 3 and 4.
The Israelites have been wandering in the desert for 40 years. 40 long, hot, dry years. The generation that fled from Egypt has all died, including Moses and it is time for the next generation to enter the Promised Land. Joshua has been put in leadership over the people and can you imagine what it would have felt like to hear God say, “alright Joshua, it’s time. We’re crossing over”? After 40 years, it’s finally time.
They do have one obstacle in their way, however. The swollen river Jordan. It’s banks are overflowing. How are they going to cross? This is the only thing standing between them and the Promised Land of Canaan.
In a repeat of their entry into the wilderness, God holds back the waters of the Jordan and makes a dry path for the Israelites to cross over. As they cross over, 12 men were chosen—one from each tribe—to choose a rock from the bed of the river.
When all the Israelites cross, these twelve rocks are brought with them and set up at their new place of residence. What are the rocks for?
He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.
The Israelites were finally moving from one place to another, from the wilderness to the Promised Land, and what does God ask of them in the space between? To remember. God gives them a physical tool to remember His action, His presence, His kindness towards them. So that every time their children run by that pile of rocks and wonder, “What are those for?” They’ll remember. Oh yes, God is with us. He is for us.
Why does God ask them to make a memorial? Why do we need an aid to remember? Because we forget. I forget.
I forget that God is good and faithful and kind. I forget that God keeps His promises. I forget that God’s presence makes a difference. I forget that God provides for me in loud and quiet ways. I forget. We forget.
When we forget what God did before, when we forget His presence with us in our suffering, when we forget who He is, the next season seems scary and shaky. Remembering God’s presence in the past settles us in deeper as we walk into the future. It gives us a firm footing because, in remembering, we are declaring who we are choosing to walk into the future with.
Calvary, we are moving from one place to another. We can pretend the last two months didn’t happen, but they did. I’m not saying they’re equivalent to 40 years in the wilderness, although some days… But this season we’re in now does mark a change in time, a change in seasons, a moving from one place to another. Even when everything gets back to normal, it will still look different because we have together been changed by this time.
This transition, just like every transition in life, is an invitation to look back and remember. To take some time and perhaps see more clearly how God was present and active in this strange time. How was God good, kind and compassionate towards you? How did God challenge and convict you? How was God present?
When we remember it builds our picture of who we’re expecting God to be in the future. Our vision, our view of God can’t become more truthful if we don’t take time to wonder about how we have seen God in the past.
Remembering can take some time, and I need help with it. My memory is not fantastic. This is why I’ve created a resource compiling a few of the questions our teachers have asked over this last season. Questions that help us pause and pray and remember. I invite you to print off the guide and take time in the next week to pause and ask God to help you see more clearly how He has been present with you. I find God has a much better memory with these things than I do. Invite Him into this process with you.
Then, build a memorial. I’ve included some ideas on the handout: paint rocks and put them in your garden, write down the gifts you’ve received from God on sticky notes and put them on the wall, draw pictures of ways that you’ve seen God active in your home and community. Take time, remember, and then make a memorial to help you keep remembering as you walk into the future. May the ways we’ve been shaped in this last season build a beautiful and fruitful foundation for the next places we find ourselves in.