Today's Lectionary Text
When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’” Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”
The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord told Joshua, carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there. (Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.)
We can use simulators to feel the thrill of flying airplanes, racing cars, even jumping motorcycles without crashing or getting hurt. But they are more than entertainment. Simulators give the military, airline pilots, even NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers a way to train for dangerous work in a safe environment. Those simulators are a product of modern technology. But we’ve used simulators as long as we’ve been human. Centuries before virtual reality, storytelling was our simulator.
In his book “The Storytelling Animal,” Jonathan Gottschall says humans tell stories as a way to simulate life. Characters in our stories become a way we learn about navigating dangerous, scary, or challenging moments without putting ourselves at risk. He says stories all have a basic structure: Story = character + predicament + possible extrication.
This passage from Joshua is one of the last chapters in the story of God liberating the Israelites from slavery. The story = Israelites + enslavement + God. When the people enter the land God promised them, God tells Joshua to construct a monument. It is a simple monument; a stack of 12 stones. It is a reminder of God’s steadfast love. More importantly, it is a reminder to tell their story to the next generation.
It is part a larger story: the story of God and God’s people. It continues to be written today. You are one character in the story, and your life has had a predicament where God’s love and grace provided your extrication. Your experience taught you something about your relationship with God. When you tell your story, it helps someone else learn about God before they face the same predicament. Your story becomes a simulator for someone else.
Just as we can learn to cook without becoming a chef, or learn to sew without becoming a fashion designer, we can tell stories without becoming an author or film director. Whether you tell your story to one person over coffee or a hundred on Sunday morning you add to the story of God, God’s people, and God’s transformation of the world.
Pastor, Osage City-Reading KS UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Holy God, we thank you for those whose stories have helped up on our journey. Help us to recognize our own stories so that telling them will help others learn about you. Amen.
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