About four years ago, to celebrate my 60th birthday, I traveled to the Adirondack Mountains to climb Blue Mountain. I had ascended that mountain 23 years earlier with my youngest son, Nathan. For me, it was a long, steep, and arduous climb. Not so for the young man who RAN past me up the mountain. Still, the effort was well worth it. When I reached the top, I walked up a rickety old fire tower and the view was simply stunning. Happy birthday to me!
There is something about the mountains, isn’t there. Oh, I love to go to the ocean, and to various lakes, but the mountains hold a special place in my life too. I remember thinking on the top of Blue Mountain, “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121) We see a mountain on the horizon and we can’t help but think of the majesty and power of nature, or of God. Mountains can be a symbol for strength and stability, but they can also be a symbol for challenge and perseverance and the best effort we can make.
In the scriptures, a lot of very significant things took place on the mountains. We may recall Isaiah writing of a day when the peoples of the earth would say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” Or we remember that Moses received the law on Mount Sinai. It was on Mount Carmel that Elijah called down fire from heaven. And Peter, James, and John were on the mountain with Jesus to see him transfigured. Jesus did some of his best preaching from a mountaintop pulpit.
All of which leads me to report that my emphasis in preaching this summer will be on the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. Do we have a faith that is integrated into our lives? Does Jesus have something to say about that? Indeed he does. So in the next roughly eight weeks, we will be studying what Jesus said about what a faith that is fully integrated into our lives is supposed to look like. We will be looking at his most influential sermon during Sunday School and worship. We will reflect on his words to see what he actually expects of us. Hymn-writer Johnson Oatman said it best:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
So mark your calendars and plan to be here as we climb to higher ground. I assure you, the view from the top will be magnificent! May God bless us, our summer, our study, worship, and service of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
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Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell