12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. 1 Sam 7:12
As we've already read in places like Genesis 35, 1 Samuel 7, and Joshua 4 (among many other places), God's covenant faithful people regularly erected stones, altars, and other monuments as lasting testimonies to God's presence, faithfulness, and power. The word Ebenezer is a single-word rendering that comes from two Hebrew words Eben-Haezer - meaning "stone of help." The basic idea behind an Ebenezer really comes down to marking a place (that represents God's saving activity in time) so that the people involved, and those who would come after them, might be reminded of God's relentless covenant faithfulness and love of those who trust Him.
Few people mark times and places like this these days, but we will, again, and we'll encourage our congregation to do the same. Why? Because as it was back then, people tend to forget. For no fault other than the way time clouds memories and distorts actual events, there is something incredibly healthy about erecting something real and tangible...something that can be looked at and touched...something that can be read and told again. It explains why we write history and erect monuments. We do so so that those who come after us will know what we know and be shaped by what shaped us.
The twelve stones that sit in front of our house are likened to the twelve stones that were pulled from the center of the Jordan river as God's people miraculously crossed into the promised land. As we wrapped up our time at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2002, and God was about to bring us where He had been leading all those years, we (literally) picked up twelve stones when we left, promising to erect them "on the other side" (wherever that would be). In a set of events that can only be described as miraculous, God led us to Brigham City, UT where we cut our teeth in ministry.
Now, through yet another set of amazing events, God is again at work leading us to Wilson UMC. And as it was before, we plan to unload - before anything comes off any truck - our new Ebenezer when we land safely on the "other side." It, like the one before it, will stand as a reminder to us and those we know of God's amazing help as we faithfully choose to follow.
19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 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 4:19-24