Happy New Year!
Like what all of you who have school aged children or grandchildren experienced this week, for us today this is the start of a new year. New beginnings, whether we mark them in terms of dates on a calendar or grades in school or even transition points in life, often provide a moment for personal reflection. Maybe even new decisions about how you would like to spend your time and about who and how you would like to be and what you would like to do. To mark the occasion I almost bought all of you party hats and noisemakers like mine, but, instead I thought I would tell you a story and give you a stone.
This story from Hebrew Scripture. The book of Joshua.
After wandering for so long in the wilderness, that barren place somewhere between Egypt and what is now Israel, and after Moses, the great leader and Patriarch of the Jewish people, had died, Joshua leads the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan River. Behind them was desert and hardship and testing and uncertainty. In front of them waited Promised Land. As they are about to plunge into the river leaving the past behind and to claim the future, Joshua tells them to stop.
“Pick up a stone,” he said.
“Carry it across the river and when you get to the far side set your stones down in a pile.”
“Why?” The people asked.
This was Joshua’s response:
“So that in the days to come when you are walking along the banks of the river with your children or grandchildren or your neighbor’s children they will see the out of place pile of stones you have made. And as children always do, they will ask you ‘Why? Why are these stones here?’” Then you will have a chance to tell the story.”
I share the story with you today, because as we begin this new year I wonder what hopes or dreams inspire you? What aspirations do you have for yourself or for your children or for the communities in which we live as we begin this next year? All things being equal and if this were an opportunity to take stock and to begin anew or to at least adjust priorities and time…
- What would you like do that would make your life deeper or richer or more meaningful? More in line with who God is and who God calls you to be?
- What would you like to do to move your daily living more in line with your best values and your bravest hopes?
- What would you like to do to strengthen your family or to help your children learn about more than math or science or history, but also about God and faith and compassion and kindness?
Here is what I think…or at least what I hope.
Those thoughts which began to push into your awareness from the edges of your mind as I asked my questions; Those hopes you have or dreams you hold onto…
When translated into actions, large or small in whatever way you are able, become the markers you leave for others to see and to ask about.
Whether they ask it out loud or just say it to themselves, they ask Why?
Why did you stop and help that person?
Why did you treat her that way?
Why did you get upset about what you read or saw?
Why did we drop off that bag of groceries?
Why do you go to church on Sunday?
Why do we have to do THAT?
“Why do we have to carry a stone across the river,” they asked?
“So, in the days to come others will see the stones you left and ask you why?”
What markers do you want to leave behind for others to see?
For your children to see? For your grandchildren to see? For your neighbors to see?
Markers that will point both them and us in the direction of God’s Kingdom come?
As you leave this morning, I extend this invitation.|Take a stone from the basket and add it to the stones on the table as a sign of your desire to add to the markers we leave in the lives of others and in the communities around us. And, take a second stone and take it home and put it someplace you will see it each day and so be reminded…and so one more time will have the chance to tell the story.