Some time ago I read the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The author, commissioned by the National Geographic Society, used the journals of Lewis and Clark as a guide. He simply repeated the trip, following their footsteps, up the same rivers and over the same mountains. The most fascinating part of the whole story for me was that Lewis and Clark, and several others who traveled with them, kept highly detailed journals of their trip. For them, crossing the continent was important, but remembering the crossing was crucial.
Remembering has always been important to God’s people. Crossing the Red Sea or the Jordan River was half the story. Remembering what God did there was the rest of the story.
We can hear it in Joshua’s words … (4:4-7, 22-24)
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” … 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.”
Did you notice who the stones were for?
1st – (v. 6) For the Twelve Men who carried the stones. Joshua says the stones will “serve as a sign among you.”
2nd – (v. 6) For the Children. Joshua says, “In the future, when your children ask you, what do these stones mean? Tell them”
3rd – (v. 7) For the People. Joshua says, “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
4th – (v. 24) For Everyone — Can see the circle widening? Joshua explains, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand the Lord is powerful.”
Four groups. Four messages. This pile of stones rehearses the story for all these groups of people.
In the same way, our Red Sea, our Jordan River, our baptism is half the story. Remembering what God did there is the rest of the story.
Communion is our pile of stones.
It’s where we rehearse the story.
It’s why we do it every week.