Monday, December 28, 2009

Ebenezer – Stone of Help

“When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty, my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.”

—Sam Lefkowitz.

In the tradition of Samuel the prophet (in 1 Samuel 7) comes the time-honoured practice of placing a stone at a site of victory—an Ebenezer; the stone of help[1]—commemorating help received. It means, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”[2]

Ebenezers don’t need to be stones so much. They’re anything that reminds us of the faithfulness of God in our tumults.

The final session of a wonderful four month series on rearing morally-sound children featured a warm couple who showed off their collection of ebenezers. Encased in a testimonial wooden box, this bunch of innocuous items—retrieved one-by-one—brought a tear to their eyes as they fondly reminisced over the times of God’s sweet deliverance.

The key to retaining joy in life is staying positive; and to be positive we need to consider meditatively i.e. habitually, the things in life that cause thankfulness—a deep-rooted gratitude. It is the very key to remaining positive, optimistic, buoyant, and yes, resilient.

When I’m least fearful, I have filled my life with golden treasures that remind me constantly of God’s grace, his Presence, mercy and faithfulness. When my spiritual spark has left me for a time, these golden treasures vanish from my conscious thinking.

Yet, these ebenezers are everywhere.

If we’re not yet creative enough to see them, we ought to reclaim them. They do exist in everyone’s life. Any person not doing so, and therefore choosing not to recover what they already have, could only truly be considered wantonly foolish.

But, situationally, we’re these.

We need to become more habitually aware of the ‘stones of help’ as they exist in our lives. The list is truly never ending. They’re the love of our lives. They’re the affirmative remnants of the battle-weary times we barely endured.

And then there’s the spiritual ebenezer. Stoic remembrances of happier times possibly. Hope of happy times to come also. The stone is a memory; anything we attach to our experience that helps us extract cognisance of God’s fullness in our comprehension.

Thankfulness of God’s resplendent helps in our lives... it bears much consideration—in obedience given and joy received.

Our eternal stone of help is surely the Cornerstone (Ps. 118:22 and Isa. 28:16 toward 1 Pet. 2:6-7).

He, Jesus, has taken us from the old Israel to the new.[3] The New Covenant—the overcoming Passover—that bears his name is borne in the fact of thanks for God’s thundering, life-impacting, humbling and sin-effacing grace.

And our chief Ebenezer? It is the holy Eucharist—remembrance epitomised in the tradition of our Ebenezer.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Dr. Gregory S. Neal, What’s an Ebenezer? Retrieved 28 December 2009.

[2] Ellen Vaughn, Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy Through Everyday Thankfulness (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2005), p. 176. Vaughn is referencing directly 1 Samuel 7:7-17. She has a chapter in her book called, ‘Ebenezers Everywhere.’

[3] John R. Franke (Ed.) & Thomas C. Oden (Gen. Ed.), Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel – Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture – Old Testament IV (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press/Institute of Classical Christian Studies, 2005), p. 223. Citing Jerome and Augustine.

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