Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mountain Tops

My Dad was not someone who liked to hike.
However, once a year we would go up Foss Mountain.
It is near Camp Calumet off of Crystal Lake.
Anyway, if you have ever been up Foss Mountain you will know that it is not much of hike.
You drive up it, and then you get out of your car and maybe walk 100 yards and you are at the top.
My dad would get to the top after the grueling 100 yard walk up a gradual incline look around and say, “Well this is my one hike this year.”
However, one of my favorite pictures of my father is of him on the top of Foss Mountain.
It is a black and white photo.
He is sitting with one leg up and the other folded underneath it.
He is resting his hands on his legs and staring off into the beautiful scene of mountains and lakes before him.
I like the photo because it shows him at peace, in reflection.
I have no idea what he might be thinking at that moment, but my guess is something like, “Wow this is unbelievable”.
I can guess that is what he saying because it is one of his favorite sayings.
In many ways that picture is a contradiction a man who didn’t like to hike on a mountain top, appreciating the glory and wonder of God’s creation.

I was reflecting on this week’s Gospel about Jesus going up a mountain to say good bye to his disciples.
About Jesus giving them some final instructions before all things are handed over to him.
I was thinking about this moment, and about my Dad sitting on that mountain with that look of wonderment and peace, and I was thinking about holy space.
I was thinking about holy spaces.
Jesus gives those last instructions about going into the world on a mountain.
And in Matthew’s Gospel all the really important things happen on Mountains; the sermon on the mountain, the revelation of Jesus divine status, praying, curing of the sick and the lame.
It is on Mountains that the divine is present.

Mountains matter in Matthew, and I think they matter to us too.
Even if we don’t like to hike we all have mountain top experiences in our lives.
We have important moments that feel significant and big.
Many of us during this time of year celebrate those moments.
We have graduations, first communions, confirmations, weddings, and all sorts of major life passages.
We experience something in these moments a clarity of purpose.
If your child graduates this spring you as a parent feel that something is different with them.
They have passed a milestone; you have gotten them through school into something new.
Lots of graduation speeches are about the future, about shaping that future and making it better.
It is a mountaintop experience.

I don’t know about you but I would like to stay there sometimes.
I look at that picture of my Dad and wish that he where still there/here.
That this summer we could go up the Foss Mountain together, and he would turn to me and say, “Well that is my one hike a year.”
But you know Jesus won’t let us.
We are sent down from the mountain out into the world.
We might visit those mountain tops but we can’t last there.

This season people in our congregation are also struggling with death, with loss, with heart ache, and into that world is where Jesus sends us.
We can’t be young forever.
We can’t always have some great life event.
Sometimes we simply have to get through.

It is on another mountain at a different time and place.
Many years before Jesus would stand on that mountain with his instructions.
Moses stood on a mountain.
He was told that it was holy ground.
He experienced the Almighty One there on that mountain.
Once again it would be nice to stay there and bask in the glow.
But God had other ideas other orders.
Go and tell Pharaoh that the God of the universe wants God’s people to be free.
Moses protests, “send someone else, I don’t really want to go, I am no good for this thing”.

We protest too.
It is nice on the mountain.
It is nice there in the presence of the Holy One.
We can take our shoes off and not worry about anything.
It is peaceful there and we can stair off into the distance in wonder and amazement at God’s creation.
But there are other things God has in store for us.
Other things God wants us to do.

You recognize a pattern here.
We go to the mountain only to be sent back down.
But something in both stories is important to point out.
Neither Moses nor Jesus disciples goes alone.
Jesus promises “I will be with you to the end of the age.”
Moses is promised that God will be there too.

You see the Holy doesn’t just have to be on the mountain.
It can be in the doing too.
It can be in the living and dying.
It can exist with a father changing a dirty diaper.
It can exist with a mother driving her teenage children to the movies.
It can exist when someone waits by a loved one who is dying.
It can exist at the Friendly Kitchen as we pass food to a hungry person.
It can exist as we walk together so that we might abolish the death penalty.
It can exist between friends as we listen to someone else’s pain.
It can exist as we live our faith in the world.
It can exist as we teach others about Jesus.

You see I like that picture of my father, but the real things I remember about him was the way he was with me down from the mountain.
I remember the way he taught me to catch a baseball, hit a golf ball, drive a car.
The way he got mad when I didn’t do my best, and the way he forgave me when I disappointed him.
Fatherhood/motherhood is often not about mountaintop experience.
Sure you have those moments when all seems right, but that is just a culmination of a million little moments when you had to correct something, or suffer through natural growing pains.
I can remember when my kids where young and they were not yet sleeping through the night, and I came home from work, my wife looked tired she had some form of kid spit up on her.
And she would look at me and say, “Motherhood is really glamorous.”
Think of what Jesus had to go through to stand on that mountain and ascend into heaven.
He had to go through Good Friday.
Being the messiah is not glamorous.
Being a disciple is not either.
Being a disciple means getting our hands dirty in the world as we attempt to live out the great commission.

If you have had a mountaintop experience recently I am happy for you.
If you have been to the Mountain top and had some time to look out over the horizon and have some peace, I am glad.
I hope this summer you get to have some time to take a hike, enjoy God’s creation, think about what your life and be at peace.
I also hope you have some time to get dirty to love others, to help others, to not be glamorous, to be sent into the world to teach of Jesus and his love.

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