The Upper Room devotional reflection for Tuesday, October 27, 2020 comes to us from Jan Woodard of Pennsylvania
1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” 4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
John 11:35 (KJV) Jesus wept
I went to church feeling numb the morning after eleven people were massacred at Tree of Life Synagogue during Shabbat service in nearby Pittsburgh. I needed to kneel at the altar and grieve over that hate-filled act while surrounded by people of faith. As I entered the church, someone handed me a small round stone.
Our pastor invited us to lay our stones on the altar and demonstrate with a physical act our faith in God and God’s faithfulness to all generations. Our pastor’s idea to place stones on the altar was inspired by the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves. Stones remain long after flowers wilt, through the storms and chill of winter while we await the return of warm, sunny days. As I went up to the altar, I felt the warm stone in my hand. Then I released it and knelt with friends praying at the altar rail for our fractured world.
I left the church that morning still in sorrow but assured once again that God understands our hurts and grieves with us. In the same way, God calls is to enter into the sorrow and suffering of all our neighbors, even those we have not met.
Prayer Focus: Victims of gun violence
Prayer: Everlasting God, thank you for your Holy Spirit who walks with us through valleys of despair. Empower us to walk in love alongside others. Amen.
Thought for the Day: God weeps with us in our suffering.
— Jan Woodard
Like Jan Woodard, I remember experiencing despair (along with a healthy dose of anger) when I heard about this hate-filled violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Also, I remember a news story about how our God of all faiths inspired a group of faith-filled Muslims from a Mosque near the Synagogue to come out and escort and protect members of that Synagogue into their sacred space safely. Thus, God not only walks with us when we grieve, but also works in ways that bring healing and redemption through those around us.