The Marvin Gaye song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, has been going through my mind all week. When I think of it in terms of how God’s love is with us and pursuing us all the time it’s a better fit than a love song between people. God’s love for us reaches the highest heights and it with us in the lowest depths.
We end the Season of Epiphany this weekend with the Transfiguration, a mountian top experience. Mountain top experiences are often hard to translate to others. As we ramp up with camp registrations for Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp and putting together our plan for the ELCA Youth Gathering 2021 in Minneapolis I think of the many experiences of camp and youth activities that helped form my faith.
It is one of the gifts of getting to serve Lord of the Hills as pastor- going to the mountains with young people and being there for peak moments like Youth Gatherings. And also getting to walk alongside youth in some of the deepest darkness. Growing up, the congregation I attended owned it’s own retreat center, Midori-land on Big Bear Lake in California. There were a number of mountain top experiences for me over the years in those Southern California mountains. Even as I don’t remember all of the details I remember those experiences helping to shape and form my relationship with God. I remember also some really tough times in those mountains and others who walked with me through those as well.
We will be traveling from the Mountian top of the Transfiguration to the reminder of our mortality when ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross of Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”. Remembering of how we sin, fall short, need to ask God for forgiveness and turn away from our sins is also part of the season of Lent. We are people who are invited to remember both- the mountain top experiences and our mortality and deep need for God.
This week reading through Matthew 17:1-9- (the Transfiguration) I was struck by the words, “he touched them”. Jesus touches his disciples when they are afraid. At the retreats and camps I have attended over all the years since my childhood being together with other people has been key. There have been “epiphany” and mountian top moments I have had alone, but more often it was in community. And the power of having others with me is that could help me remember- we were bound together by our shared mountian top experience.
When the disciples travel up the mountian with Jesus- I wonder what were they thinking? Is this just another walk? Is this that time where Jesus just needs to get away from the crowds and we are his crew so he’s taking us with him? They had no idea that this would be a time for them to see and hear the unimaginable. They have a mountian top experience and are terrified and fall to the ground. When they are overcome by fear Jesus comes to them and touches them.
Meeting them where they are- he touches them. That was my experience time and time again both on the mountain tops and in the deep valleys- others met me where I was and touched me. They were the embodied love of God that came to me in my deep joy and my incapacitating fear. This year for the season of Lent we are inviting you to journey with Jesus and one another listening, looking for and asking direction from the GPS that is the God Positioning Service (GPS). Where is God calling you, guiding you, leading you?
Here are some of the practices I encourage you to consider to guide you this Lenten journey: entering more deeply and intentionally into the study of Scripture, time spent in prayer, some form of fasting - a practice of letting go- perhaps it is the fasting- going for a time period or certain day without food or giving up a particular food or food group, or bad habit that you can practice letting go of for the forty days of Lent, almsgiving- increased charitable giving, intentional acts of kindness and generosity. There are are many ways to observe this season and be open to God’s guidance and direction. We will have a resource table for you with some “maps/directions” for your journey.
This year we will offer the Imposition of Ashes earlier in the day before our Ash Wednesday Evening worship at 7pm. The church will be open for you to stop by to receive ashes before work/school/the beginning of your day form 6:45am-8am and then again at lunch time if you want to stop by in the middle of the day to receive ashes from 11:30am-1pm. The sanctuary will be open for prayer during these times for you to take time as you start your journey. We will be sharing resources over the next six weeks to encourage and guide you as you travel.
We will have Soup Suppers at 6pm and Holden Evening Prayer at 7pm every Wednesday evening during Lent and we are inviting fellow traveler to share their experiences in worship of what has helped sustain them on their journeys. May you experience the presence of Jesus in both your mountain top and your dark valley experiences and be open to when it is you the God is calling and wants to use as the heart and hands of Jesus touching others on God’s behalf, in Jesus’ name. Remembering that Jesus called us the light of the world we take the light of the season of Epiphany and we let it guide and lead us as we journey through Lent.