Pouring wine and oil over a stone seems like some strange ritual to play out at a prayer retreat, so maybe some background is needed.
First it’s a visual image, a tangible way to touch what we have said in words, mind and heart. So often we move past sacred moments without memorializing them in a significant way. Remembering, testifying, witnessing is crucial to passing on redemptive history in our lives both personally and communally. I am always looking for ways to press the weight of the moment into our hearts and minds, to set in stone actions and words that we will need to return to again and again.
The biblical parallels come from these two stories:
“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.” “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day at Shechem, committing them to follow the decrees and regulations of the Lord. Joshua recorded these things in the Book of God’s Instructions. As a reminder of their agreement, he took a huge stone and rolled it beneath the terebinth tree beside the Tabernacle of the Lord…Joshua said to all the people, “This stone has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness to testify against you if you go back on your word to God.””
“Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil. And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God had spoken to him there.”
We placed this rock outside of the chapel to remember when we return, what God has done in our lives. Schweitzer Chapel is a retreat center that we pilgrimage to often and believe that we are cultivating an ongoing history of communion, experience, answered prayer, learning and relationship building.