From ancient times, mountains have beckoned to many faith-seeking people
HIGHER GROUND. What is it about the mountains that have always drawn faith-seeking people? Abraham went up to a mountain to sacrifice. Moses went up to a high mountain to meet with God. David found refuge and strength in the mountains. He wrote: “I look to the hills from where my help comes.” Inanimate as ever, yet they seem to beckon to the heart to look up, to come away, to quest, to learn, to journey, to reach, to climb, to scale, to grow, to conquer or overcome.
RESPECT THE MOUNTAIN. Conquering the mountains is more elusive than most imagine. Even so-called “safe” mountain areas like the resorts in Summit County, Colorado evade complete domestication. Last month a plane crashed into a Montana mountain killing all 18 people on board. Recently, a local Breckenridge man was killed in an avalanche not far from here. For all the thousands of us who swarm the mountains for sport or spirituality, like the seas, the mountains call for respect.
STEWARD WELL. Life calls for respect. It is not just mountains and seas. Soil and water and the air we breathe, the persons we encounter, the soul we have been given—all these beckon to us: Do not take for granted. Do not take lightly. Enjoy with reverent respect. Cultivate with stewardship. Use with awe and thanksgiving. Ponder the depth and interrelatedness of this and all things. Be enriched, but also enrich. Be resourced, but also resource. Take, but give. Whatever you touch or attempt or exploit, do so with maximum awareness, respect, and reverence for the miracle and preciousness of life.
SERMON ON THE MOUNT. It isn’t a “sermon” at all. Matthew 5-7 is, according to E. Stanley Jones, a portrait of Jesus and “the human to be.” It is the spiritual and ethical equivalent of a beckoning mountain—not as a matter of retreat or exceptional pursuit, but as a matter of living one’s faith to the full. Individuals, communities, and societies that desire to embody the promise and future of humanity now will embrace the Sermon on the Mount. If you haven’t spent time with it lately, it ever beckons sincere sojourners. I recommend E. Stanley Jones’ “Christ of the Mount” as your sherpa (mountain guide).
HIGHER GROUND. Wesleyan-holiness folk sometimes sing this gospel song by Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932). It expresses longing desire and passionate intent to leave low places and dwell on “higher ground.”
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Tho’ some may dwell where these abound
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to live above the world
Tho’ Satan’s darts at me a hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven’s table land;
A higher plain than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
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