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 for ever.’ Joshua 4:5-7
Tonight we had Mexican Meal Dip for dinner. Given the date and the importance of this anniversary we will remember on Sunday, I am challenged to connect the meal to the tragedy of ten years ago. This dish is a festive one. It is a dish that can be served at parties, though it also contains most of the food groups (if not in their healthiest forms). Its light-hearted feel doesn’t really do justice to the solemnity of our remembrance, unless you consider its source.
Mexican Meal Dip is from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook. I have written before, in several places (Food is Love, and Family) about the importance not only of this cookbook and my family, but of our traditions, our history and all that they mean to me. More than just good memories, each recipe and each recollection create another piece to my story. Each one has formed me and, for good or ill, made me who I am.
The events of September 11 will affect everyone living today in our country and well beyond. It will be a large piece to all our stories. Neither of my children were born by this date, but their lives will bear the impact of its happening, even if they do not know it. They will live in a changed world, amid people who know suffering on a level that most of us did not before.
I am one of the least affected. Of the many lives claimed by that day, I knew no one personally. I was living safe in Tucker, Georgia at that time, where I felt no threat that terrorism might invade my life. I was in seminary – just out from class when I learned the news – and had many friends and fellow students with whom I could share the shock.
The greatest difficulty I had was in my appointment, my church. I had been a pastor for less than a year, with no experience to draw from, no accumulated wisdom. Now I was called to lead my tiny congregation through grief and mourning, to help them process it and find God after the horror. I was young, shocked and numb myself. I didn’t want to lead a congregation. I wanted to do nothing more than sit in my living room and watch the television coverage. I could hardly take my eyes away from it, let alone feel ready to help anyone else.
But I did what I could. I called my parishioners. We set up a special Wednesday night service. We sang mostly. My preaching was probably no better than it was at any other time in those early years. It couldn’t have begun to capture the gravity of its subject anyway. No words could. But I spoke about Joshua.
In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel are preparing to enter the land that God had promised to them. This is a momentous occasion. The Israelites have wandered in the wilderness for 40 grueling years. A generation has gone and a new one is now stepping forward. But Joshua will not forget. He commands stones to be piled up in worship to God, and as a reminder for the generations to come. They are to remember and teach their children all that has happened, lest they forget the fire in which they were forged – the wilderness that shaped them and bound them as God’s people. In the centuries to come, the Israelites will remember. They will learn to identify themselves by these years of hardship and sorrow, far from civilization but near to God.
The times of challenge and distress built the character of the Israelites. They remembered the punishing wilderness wanderings. They remembered their time of settlement in the promised land. They later remembered their exile in Babylon, and they remembered their restoration. Each event, each hardship became another stone on their altar of memory – their worship of the God who had created them, formed them and called them God’s own.
We will never forget the horrific events of September 11, 2001. They cannot be undone, nor will they heal without considerable scarring. But our wounds, if we treat them right, will mend stronger. The marks that remain will be a sign of our belief that our God is stronger than evil, and that good and love will ultimately prevail.
May you spend this day in the company of friends and loved ones. May you celebrate life over Mexican Meal Dip, Fried Chicken or whatever food reminds you of who you are and what ground you have traveled. May you allow yourself be shaped by the sorrows of the past, and by undying hope, into a person of God’s own making.
Mexican Meal Dip
1 lb. ground beef 1 large onion chopped
1 can black beans 1 can whole kernel corn
1 can diced tomatoes 1 can chopped green chilies
1 t. ground cumin 2 t. chili powder
2 lbs. Velveeta Light, cubed 8 oz. sr. cream
Cook beef with onion in a large nonstick skillet until the beef has no more pink. Pour into a colander. Rinse in hot water to remove excess fat. Place meat/onion mixture in a crockpot or cleaned nonstick skillet. Drain black beans and rinse well. Add the beans to the meat. Drain the corn, tomatoes and chilies. Add all the vegetables to the meat mixture and heat on low until thoroughly heated. Add remaining ingredients and heat on low, stirring often until the cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips. This makes a meal for 4-6 or a dish for a party. – Diane Taylor
Note: I used ½ lb Velveeta. This dish still gave us plenty of leftovers, even after our family of four did our worst!