WALLS OF REMEMBRANCE IN WORSHIP – Here I Raise Mine Ebenezer
As the weekend began I got to spend a few hours at Carson Springs between scheduled events where I had responsibility there. The beautiful weather at the time beckoned me to come out and walk around the campgrounds. I thought I would take a walk to see what all had changed over the years. Just walking up the main road toward what use to be the dining hall stirred so many memories. Some of the changes that I noticed right off the bat took place some time ago. I even thought back to when I was in high school and there were old dormitory style buildings that housed campers during Youth Music Week that I attended as a teenager. I made some important spiritual decisions here during those days. Years later I would come as a Minister of Music bringing a group of teenagers of my own. I would pray for their spiritual enlightenment during their time on this mountain. Later yet I would be here as a guest director and eventually as the one in charge of Youth Music Week as the State Music Leader. I continued remembering and walking. Just before I got to the drive that use to serve as our starting point to welcome young campers I stopped and just looked across the whole camp that my eye could see. A chill ran down my spine as it occurred to me how impactful this place has been in my spiritual life. I looked over and noticed two stone platforms on which were mounted plaques. These were new to me. I read the message on each. These monuments serve as memorial expressions of gratitude for those who gave property or significant financial contributions making the facility possible.
The monuments are intended to remind onlookers that someone sacrificed to make the encampment possible, and also serve as inspiration for others to do likewise in carrying forward the intended purposes of Camp Carson. These stone memorials are something of an Ebenezer, or wall of remembrance (1 Samuel 7:12) for Camp Carson and all who come to the mountain there. As I reflected it occurred that Camp Carson itself is an Ebenezer to me. Walking past the old dining hall toward Stokely Chapel brought tears as I considered times marching up that hill anticipating enthusiastic singing, inspired preaching, and challenging moments of spiritual examination and decision. Faces and names came to mind as did feelings of jubilation, conviction, and lament. Although Stokely Chapel has been remodeled and improved, including air conditioning added, I still remembered back to swatting bugs that had flown in the open windows during worship. I reminisced about seeing each of my own children as teens, and others in my spiritual care, make life commitments to God in that place. Visions of hugs, tears, joyous celebration, and meaningful moments of prayer and singing stirred my spirit to rejoice again.
I continued walking across the camp pausing at places like the campfire circle recalling deep and lasting friendships that were sealed there as well as personal commitments prayed. I peered back up the hill to Gheens Hall where so many faculty breaks, late night prayer meetings, and nights were spent, both restful and restless. All these years later I could not help but think that times of prayer spent in that yellow building on top of the hill yielded answered prayer at the bottom of the hill as campers surrounded the flickering flames of final night campfires, and stood silent while songs echoed from the surrounding hills drawing on experiences of the week in which lyrical phrases were grafted into their mind and spirit as they had worked on notes and rhythms, melodies and harmonies, and experienced the miracle of music embedding spiritual truth inside their hearts.
While the memories mentioned above will probably only resonate with those Tennessee musicians who took part in Youth Music Week or Children’s Music Week those years ago, but there is a larger point I would want to make that concerns a critical aspect of the work of worship in our spiritual lives and that of the people with whom we serve. In our best practices, based on clear biblical teaching and models, worship enacts remembrances. At each of two recent Worship Renewal through Congregational Singing training events pastors focused a portion of their worship remarks on the high value of remembrance and returning to our first love. Those two things go hand in hand. This is never a matter of just longing for the “good old days.” Rather our remembrances in worship are of what God has done, His character expressed and demonstrated. Remembering the great things He has done stirs us to give thanks with a grateful heart, and to return to our first love.
Worship repositions and reforms the heart of the genuine worshiper. Relevance in present context includes remembrance of God’s saving acts in the past. His provision, His deliverance, His salvation are reason not only for remembrance but for response. Praise is ignited in such recollections, and hope in current circumstance is fueled by such memories. In the continuum of the already and not yet we place trust in the Triune God. Worship’s highest purpose must be to lift Him high, drawing others to Him. Revisiting our Ebenezers as individual worshipers, as families, and as congregations, brings us to reposition ourselves as servants in His Kingdom, loving the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.
Whether your Ebenezer is at Camp Carson, Linden, Ridgecrest, the Cove, or your home church, it is good to periodically visit those places where God has spoken in days past. It is likewise important to grasp the value of helping your congregation to symbolically revisit their Ebenezer as part of worship in spirit and truth.