Back when I was in elementary school it was called Decoration Day; however, shortly thereafter it became Memorial Day, a time to remember those who died in service to our country by decorating their graves. Although a time to remember the military dead, on Memorial Day many people decorate the graves of all their loved ones, as well, remembering all who have gone before. As I drove into Greenfield this Sunday, across Highway O and then past the Greenfield Cemetery, it was obvious that the tradition is very much alive here.
Memorials, altars, dedications—throughout history people have set these up as a testimonial to what God has done before. The Old Testament is replete with examples of these, one of the best known being the stones set up by Joshua in chapter 4 of the book by the same name.
The people of Israel had wandered in the desert for many years and now, finally, were crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land as God had parted the waters for them. As Moses had instructed him, Joshua assigned a man from each tribe to pick up a stone from the bed of the river as they crossed over on dry ground. When all the people had crossed, and the Jordan River flowed back to cover the bed, Joshua took the stones and set them up as a memorial to God’s power and care for the people.
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” (Joshua 4:21-24).
We set up memorial stones today. For some they are cornerstones on significant buildings. For others they are tombstones that remind us of those who lived before us. Yet others, as we have here in Dade County and in many other communities, have memorial s that list the names of those who served in wars and conflicts so we will not forget. Unfortunately, even though we remember, we sometimes fail to tell our children and grandchildren what these things mean, as Joshua told to the children of Israel to do.
Have you talked to your children and grandchildren about the memorials in your life? Have you taken them to the war memorials in your community and talked to them about the sacrifices made by the men and women memorialized there? Have you taken them to the cemeteries and talked to them about their ancestors? When you pass a building in your community, do you tell them about its history and all that it has meant to your community?
Here at Ebenezer we have an item that serves as a memorial, a reminder to us and to the community that God has been faithful and will continue to be with us. One hundred seventy years ago next week, a group of people met together to charter a Presbyterian church. While trying to decide on a name, one gentleman suggested the name “Ebenezer,” found in the book of 1 Samuel.
The Israelites had once again disobeyed God and, to make a long story short, Samuel the prophet called them to repentance. As they were confessing their sins before God, the Philistines came near to attack them. Having heard the cry of the Israelites, “that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites (7:10b). Because of the forgiveness they had received and the victory given by God’s hand, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ (v. 12).
Ebenezer literally means “stone of help.” The fledgling congregation in 1842 chose this name for their church, noting that the Lord, as He did for the Israelites, “has helped us.” When you walk or drive past Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, I hope our testimony, that this congregation has been serving in the community for 170 years, will be an inspiration to you in your struggles and trials, that the Lord who has been our Ebenezer, will also be your help if you call out to God.
May God bless you and keep you in all your ways and give you peace!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393
Greenfield, MO 65661