Remembering: Telling Our Stone-stories

Text: Psalm 145

Last week, we talked about finding and gathering our stones. We looked at the account of Israel’s crossing of the Jordan River in Joshua 3 and 4, and how God commanded Joshua to have a representative of each tribe gather a stone from the middle of the river, where the Ark of the Covenant had rested while the waters were held back. Once gathered, Joshua then had the people use the stones to build a memorial monument, for the specific purpose that when their children asked their parents about the stones, they would be prompted to recount God’s miraculous work in bringing the people across the swollen and flooded Jordan River into the Promised Land.

I encouraged you then to think about our own stones: the stones we each have personally that have shaped us into the believers that we are today, the stones that have shaped our family, and the stones that have shaped and built our church. We have been gathering such stories for several weeks now, some of which are displayed on the poster to my right. Others are yet to be written on the blank stones on the poster in the foyer.

One of the most important lessons from the account of Joshua 4 was the command that the people tell their children and their children’s children about those stones. We, too, need to get talking. We need to tell our own stories. We need to talk about them. Talking about them will help us to worship God, as we remember the wonderful and amazing things He has done. As we remember how He has shown up in the trying and difficult times that we have faced. As we remember that each day is a new blessing from God, whatever challenges it contains. And in talking about our stones, we also declare to others about God and help to make Him known in our community and in all the places where we share our stone-stories. In some cases, our telling of the stories will help others to learn to praise God for the things He has accomplished in us. Finally, telling our stone-stories will help us to carry out the work that belongs to us as the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, to whom He gave the Great Commission to, “Go into all the world and tell the Good News of the Gospel message.”

So this morning, I want to spend some more time talking about the particular kinds of stories we need to be looking at for our stones. What characterizes those momentous occasions that define and shape us? To do so, we’ll be looking at Psalm 145. This psalm, headlined as being of David, is a psalm of praise. It speaks both kinds of praise: talking about both God’s acts and His personal qualities. If you looked at the Psalm in Hebrew, you would note that it is an acrostic: each line of the Psalm begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But all told, the psalm has one purpose: telling the author’s story with the intent of drawing the entire congregation into praising God for both His greatness and His goodness.

So the psalm is a personal account of how God has acted in one person’s life, and that account is transferred then to the whole community of worshippers who then contribute their own stones, as it were, of accounts of God’s great, mighty, and awesome deeds on their behalf. This is why we tell our stories. This is why it is important that we talk to others about what God is doing in our lives – even if what He is doing is being silent and allowing our prayers to seemingly bounce back down off the ceiling or the clouds. If we are talking to one another, then we can be assured that God’s silence to us does not mean that He is inactive or inattentive.

But what can we learn from our psalmist today about the stories that we tell? Like the Psalmist, our stone-stories need to be God-focused. They need to begin and end with God, and the entirety of the middle needs to likewise be saturated with Him. Listen to where the Psalmist begins His testimony of praise: “I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.” That’s where it all begins. All of life begins and ends with God. The first four words of Scripture are, “In the beginning, God.” John, in his account of the Life of Christ, begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

When the children of the Israelites would approach the Jordan River, perhaps on their way to visit some of their kinsmen in the land of the Reubenites or half of the tribe of Manasseh, whose portion of the Promised Land was granted to them on the far side of the Jordan, when those children would approach the Jordan, they would see this monument of twelve stones. They would look at it. And they would ponder, and they would ask their parents about it. And the parents would start out, “Well, back when we were slaves in Egypt, God called Moses.” God called. God acted. It would be an account not of how Israel had triumphed over the Canaanites, not of how the Israelites had built earthen works upriver of the monument and diverted or cut off the flow of the river. No, the story would be infused in its entirety with the work, acts, and deeds of God.

The psalmist goes on, in verse 5, “On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” He recognizes that it is God who works and accomplishes. It is the Lord, as the Psalmist says starting in verse 8, who, “is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all. And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.” It’s all in the second person, “You,” “Yours,” and the like. The psalmist has nothing to say of Israel’s or his own accomplishments. They have no ownership of them. It is God and God alone.

This is where our stories must begin. They must be God-focused. When we start to tell of how our lives have been shaped and formed and molded, we need to begin with the recognition that it is God who is doing the work. We are partakers more than actors. Our lives, our breath, all that we say or do begin and end with Him.

We spoke last week of the command on the Israelites to share the story of what God has done. Share it with your children. Share it with your neighbors. Make the whole world know what the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has accomplished. The psalmist says in verse 11, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power.” And back in verse 2, “Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.” People will know God because we talk about Him. People will know God because we talk about Him every day. That’s the second thing we need to know about our stone-stories. They need to be God-focused. But they also need to be told daily.

How often do you let a day go by and forget to eat? Do you ever forget to get dressed? Do you forget to brush your teeth? Do you neglect to turn on the radio or TV or computer to look at what is going on in the world? No? Why not? Because they are habits. They are things that we do every day, almost certainly without fail. We do not even have to think about them. If you are like me and most people, there is a standard start and end to your day: a routine that happens the vast majority of the time. We will even do them when away on vacation or business travel. They are ingrained in us.

That is the way that talking about our stone-stories should be. We should make it a habit of not letting a day pass without reflecting on what God has done for us. We should not go a day without telling others about what God has done. Even if they are the same stories that we have told for years and decades. God should never get old. The miracles He works and accomplishes in us should never become begrudgingly mundane. Jesus began every day with the same agenda and story: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It didn’t grow old.

The hymn writer says, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” He goes on, “And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song, ‘Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.” We should so love to tell the story – the stories – of God, that we will do it again and again and again. The same way guys will talk about that great fish catch or historic football play. These are stories we do not get tired or either hearing or telling, because they are the stories of God.

There’s a corollary to being in the habit of telling the stories daily, and that is that we also should share our stories intentionally. In verse 4, the psalmist says, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.” And in verse 11, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.”

Many of the things we do in a course of a day are simply mindless habit. We do them because we do them, and we have done them for as long as memory can recall. They get done without thought. And in many ways, this is a good thing. Breathing happens ordinarily without conscious effort – imagine if we had to remind our lungs to take each breath! We wouldn’t have room to think of anything else. And it is good to be in the habit of telling our God-stories nearly mindlessly, just because it is what we like to dwell on, what we like to spend our mental energy reflecting on. They should bring us joy and peace.

But we also need to be intentional about sharing our stories. We need to be looking for places to show off God to others. We need to be telling the next generation about what God has done. As has been often said, the church is just one generation removed from dying away. If one generation decided not to tell the next generation, then all would be lost. We must be intentional about sharing our stories with others. If for no other reason, then the simple fact that Jesus commanded us to go and tell all of the world the things He taught while He lived among us, that we would make disciples of all the nations. We are to share about God and what He has done for us, particularly through Jesus, to all of the nations of the earth. This is to happen before He returns. So we need to be seeking out ways, means, and opportunities to share our stone-stories with others.

The last characteristic about our stories is that they need to be our stories. The psalmist says in verse 6, “I will tell of Your greatness.” And at the end of the psalm, “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” We need to speak not just from collective memory, but from personal memory. We need to tell not just what God has done for the world as a whole, but what God has done for me, personally, for our family, for our church. The stories we share need to be our own encounters and experiences with God. The most inspiring stories are the most personal and intimate. It is those that we will have the most passion about.

I can recite facts from American and world history. But when I start talking about myself, I can go into great detail: I lived it. I know what the struggles were. I know what the triumphs were. I know where it could only have been God, because I was totally and helplessly inadequate.

I want us to be talking about our stories. It is my hope that our stories will be a great source of inspiration: a reminder of what God has already done that will generate an awed hope of what God can and will do with us, among us, and through us as we walk together into the next place that God is going to take us. I want us to be solidly grounded in what God has already done, not to live there and try to recreate it, but to take from it confidence and assurance that we do not walk alone.

So, like the Psalmist, I want us to tell our stone-stories. I want us to talk about those God-focused events and occurrences that bring Him all of the glory and the praise in Grit and the life and Monte Vista Baptist Church. I want us to be sharing among ourselves and with others every day, not just on Sundays or Wednesday evenings, but on the phone and in cards and in the grocery store check-out line and while we are at the water cooler at the office and while we’re playing a game of softball. I want us to be intentional about making our story known in our community, to be intentional about sharing what God has done. I want us to be making Him known for all of the glory that He deserves. And I want it to be our own stories, that we can be constantly reminded that God is not just an actor from history, but He is actively engaged in our own life’s story, in our own family’s journey, in our own church’s development.

I want these things so that we, and the whole world “will bless His holy name forever and ever.”

Let’s pray.

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