Monday, January 4, 2016

Stones as a memorial forever

"These stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever."
– Joshua 4:7

I have four small stones from the shore of the Sea of Galilee that I picked up on a pilgrimage a few years ago. I keep the stones – pebbles really – in a small olive wood bowl I bought in a curio shop in Jerusalem.

The bowl is on a table near the chair where I pray in the morning. I often hold one of the pebbles in my hand as as I pray. The stones were temporarily lost during our move back to the West, and I recently found them in a box labeled "Baskets."

The Book of Joshua 3:14-4:7, the Old Testament lesson in today's Daily Office, tells of the parting of the River Jordan as the people enter the Promised Land after their long journey through the wilderness.

In the story, the leaders of the twelve tribes are instructed to take a stone from the riverbed and carry it on their shoulders "as a memorial forever." They bring the stones to the places where they settle.

My four little stones contain memories. During our pilgrimage, it was my privilege to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at a shrine to Saint Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I put the stones on the altar, and the stones became the focus of my homily.

I talked about how each pebble is unique – one is small, another rough, another is white, and another is two-toned black-and-white. Indeed, all pebbles are unique. Not one pebble on this planet is exactly like another. So, too, are each of us made unique by our Creator.

I've often wondered what miracles these little pebbles have witnessed. Did Jesus walk on these pebbles? As I held a pebble in my hand this morning, I thought of the experiences of the holy many people had long before I was born. The pebble was also a reminder of miracles yet to come. This day is unique. No day was ever like this or will ever be like this again. My prayer is to make this day count.

Emmaus Table, James Richardson

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