Tag Archives: mountain

Mountain Light and Dark

Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, the conclusion to the church season of Epiphany. (I wrote about the light of Epiphany here). The story of Jesus’ transfiguration fascinates me on several levels. Partly it is the description of Jesus (“the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” Luke 9:29). Partly it is the sudden arrival of Moses and Elijah, long-dead prophets whose ministries foreshadowed Jesus’ own mission. Partly it is God’s command, “Listen!”  A big part is the location, a mountain.

The Wonder of God's Creation

Mountains have always been spiritual place. Humans have climbed peaks to seek the heaven throughout our history. Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments directly from God (Exodus 20). Elijah ran away to Mount Horeb, the mount of God, where he encountered God in the sound of sheer silence (I Kings 19:11-13). Solomon’s temple was built on Mount Zion and the psalmist sang about its beauty,

His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion (Psalm 48:1-2).

So when Jesus took his closest disciples, Peter, James and John, up the mountain to pray, they should not have been surprised that God met them there in a special way.

I enjoy climbing mountains (I wrote about one here).  On occasion I have used an ice axe and rope, but mostly I climb mountains that anyone in decent physical shape can scramble up.  A climb becomes both a physical and spiritual challenge.  I gain a sense of perspective sitting on top of a peak: how very large the world is and how very small I am. As I gaze across the surrounding peaks, I realize that God is in charge. The glory of his creation surrounds me and uplifts me.

But mountains have a darker side as well. The first significant mountain story in the Bible is when God ordered Abraham to take his son Isaac up on a mountain in order to sacrifice him (Genesis 22). The Israelite often created shrines to the Canaanite fertility gods on the mountain tops.

O mortal, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God! . . . , I myself will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense stands shall be broken; and I will throw down your slain in front of your idols (Ezekiel 6:2-4).

The darkest mountain of all is Mount Calvary or Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. Not much more than a hilltop outside of Jerusalem, yet the darkness of human sin caused the sky to turn black as Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Mountains can be places of terrifying death as well as peaks of glorious enlightenment.

My boyhood home had a view of Mt. Rainier

My boyhood home had a view of Mt. Rainier

Yet whether hidden in darkness or bathed in sunlight, God’s glorious love is the bedrock of each peak. Mountains call us to trust in God in all circumstances.  Jesus came to bring all creation back into full spectrum of God’s love, including you and me.

Shine, Jesus, shine in me today.

Advertisements

Mountain Voices

Elijah, in a spiritual funk, ran away from Queen Jezebel to the mountain of God. Called Horeb by the northern tribes of Israel, it is the same mountain where Moses received the 10 commandments and saw the back side of God (Exodus 33). Moses had hid in a cleft in the rock when God passed by and scholars think it was this cleft or cave to which Elijah ran.  In this high place God was sure to meet him (I Kings 19).

Israel is a hilly country, with deep valley and high craggy peaks. The high places were often used for worship, whether for idols or for the Lord. Solomon’s Temple was built on Mt. Zion. Elijah confronted the priest of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Jesus preached his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5).  The most significant high place was a hill outside Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.

Atop Hallett Peak in RMNP

Mountains have always been associated with holiness and transcendence. They reach towards the heavens and can give a person a unique perspective on the world. I have been drawn to mountain peaks since boyhood, looking up at either Mt. Angeles or Mt. Rainier. Last summer I climbed Hallett Peak in Colorado as a kind of spiritual exercise in prayer.

But as Elijah discovered, God is not restricted to mountain peaks. Though Elijah experienced a dramatic sequence of wind, earthquake and fire, God was not in the dramatic. It was in the sheer silence that followed where Elijah heard God speak. This silence can be found anywhere, in the deepest valley as well as the loftiest peak. We seek a holy space where the ears of our souls yearn for simple assuring voice of God. And “voice” may not be the right word, more like presence, peace, hope, like a mother’s calm shush that ease’s a baby cries. As a child of God, I still yearn for that quiet, assuring voice of God’s grace.

God’s “voice” gives us the assurance to carry on the journey. Elijah did not stay on the mountain, but turned around and went back to face Queen Jezebel. More on that tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, quiet my noisy life that I may hear your loving voice.