Monuments and memorial stones are not new. We need only to open the pages of the bible to see that. Because in the book of Genesis we can read about the monument to Rachel (Genesis 35:19-20), and in 2 Samuel we can read about the monument to Absalom (2 Samuel 18:18).
Furthermore, the purpose behind them, is appropriately expressed in the story of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. Because, as they prepared to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 4:1-9), Joshua commanded that twelves stones be taken from the middle of the river, and placed on the western bank, where they were to stay the night. And why? So that, “These will be signs among you. So that in time to come when your children ask, `What is the meaning of these stones?’ then you can tell them…” (Joshua 4:6-7a)
Wrapped up in this story, then, is the purpose behind memorial stones and monuments. It is why we have stained glass windows dedicated in someone’s name. It is why items are donated to organisations in memory of someone special. And, it is why we have engraved tombstones, and monuments.
Having said that, there is a big difference between a memorial remembering a loved one, and a memorial recalling a specific “God event.” And the proliferation of memorials today suggests that we may be good at remembering loved ones, but we are not so good at remembering God. And that should get us thinking about our use of monuments and memorials today.
After all, monuments and memorials can be powerful things. But of all the monuments today, how many recall a specific event in the life of a worshipping community; an event where God came to their rescue? Probably not many. And yet in Joshua’s day they were considered very important indeed.
Monuments and memorials give the opportunity to remember great events; they recall events that changed a way of life, or a way of thinking. Imagine, then, what they could do for the life of a worshipping community.
We need reminders of significant events in our relationship with God. We need reminders of what God has done for us and for others. Monuments and memorials can do just that. They can be reminders of hope and direction—they can help keep us on track. It’s just so sad that we don’t use them as much as, maybe, we should.
Posted: 22nd July 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis