Everything Is Holy: Our Memories

Weekly Bible Devotional

“Everything Is Holy: Our Memories”

June 13, 2021

 

Scripture for Sunday: Joshua 4:1-7

When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’” Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

 

Notes on the Text:

There is an ancient spiritual practice that is still popular today. It is called building a cairn which is a collection of stones put on top of each other to indicate someone’s experience of the sacred in a certain spot. In our Bible story for this week, we hear about such a practice. This was the last part of the journey of the people of ancient Israel after they left enslavement in Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. It was their time to enter into the land they would call home, but they needed to remember God’s faithfulness on the path. In this passage, we hear their leader, Joshua, asking them to get 12 rocks out of the dried-up part of the Jordan River in order to build a memorial so that future generations would remember.

 

Part of the problem for the people of God was forgetting that God was their guide and the one who sustained them on the journey. Every time the people forgot that God was with them, they stumbled and lost their way. Yet, remembering that God was with them when life was difficult was not always easy. The people needed constant reminders of God’s presence. Their hope was closely connected to their ability to stay grounded in remembering God’s presence with them.

 

The people of ancient Israel were invited to make a stone memorial representing God’s presence and guidance for their twelve tribes. This gave them the ability to move forward with courage and hope. The journey out of slavery was difficult, but in all of it God was their faithful companion. This is the most important memory for the people. This was what they needed to hold onto. All the other memories had to be grounded in the one that healed and connected them all.

 

For Reflection:

Human memory is a gift and a challenge at the same time. Memories are essential to our own identity and history. Yet, our memories could also haunt or deceive us. Sometimes we only remember the positive stuff of the past forgetting about the difficulties or injustices that were present. Other times, our painful or hate-filled memories do not allow us to move forward in positive ways. How do we find the sacred in our memories, even the difficult ones? How will we emerge out of the difficult memories of this pandemic?

 

Following in the footsteps of our ancestors in faith, the invitation is to remember God’s presence in our past and the history of the people of God. Building a cairn, ringing a bell, lighting a candle, saying a prayer, reading the Bible, gathering with others for prayer and worship, taking a deep breath, spending time in nature, and looking at others with compassion through the eyes of God are among the many ways we ground our memory in the hope and love of God. Instead of getting stuck in nostalgia about “the good old days” or in our memories of trauma or suffering, looking at God’s presence in our past and present, we can find our path forward. Remembering God’s love through biblical stories and history, we ground ourselves in sacred memory that helps us to see that no matter what happens in life, God never abandons us.

 

John O’Donohue saw “Memory as bringing our past into our present and connecting us to our future.” In his book Stone as the Tabernacle of Memory, he wrote: “The soul is the home of memory, as you go through your life nothing is ever lost or forgotten; all the kindnesses and experiences of your life are gathered together in the Divine tabernacle of memory. Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. Memory rescues experience from total disappearance. The kingdom of memory is full of the ruins of presence. It is astonishing how faithful experience actually is; how it never vanishes completely. Experience leaves deep traces in us. It is surprising that years after something has happened to you the needle of thought can hit some groove in the mind, and music of a long vanished event can rise in your soul as fresh and vital as the evening it happened. Memory provides such shelter and continuity of identity. Memory is also fascinating because it is an indirect and latent presence in one’s mind. The past seems to be gone and absent. Yet the grooves in the mind hold the traces and vestiga of everything that has ever happened to us. Nothing is ever lost or forgotten. In a culture addicted to the instant, there is a great amnesia. Yet it is only through the act of remembrance, literally re-membering, that we can come to poise, integrity, and courage. Amnesia clogs the inner compass and makes the mind homeless. Amnesia makes the sense of absence intense and haunted. We need to retrieve the activity of remembering, for it is here that we are rooted and gathered.”

 

When I need some holy memory

By Arianne Braithwaite Lehn

 

Faithful God,

Like a tree holding

sacred stories within its trunk,

I began and now breathe

because of dark, damp earth.

 

Gazing back on my life,

I’m freshly amazed at how

you’ve worked before…

surprises and fidelity

intrinsic to the

person I now am.

 

Memories of deliverance

ground me once again

as the wind around me picks up.

 

I dig with hopeful courage,

intertwining my soul with

your anchoring roots –

praising you as my Protector,

leaning on your wisdom,

soaking in your love,

seeking you for daily

strength and stability.

 

I need these memories, God,

as I weather new storms —

major changes, struggles,

frustrations, and anger…

ripping limbs off,

leaving me stark and bare.

 

Yet in each year’s mercies,

a ring grows within my trunk –

some rings thick from lush seasons,

some thin and light from drought.

 

I continue to grow and become,

all through your grace

Keeping my roots in

dark dampness

that keeps me alive.

Amen.

 

“I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

Everything Is Holy

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