1 “Climb Every Mountain or Die Trying” Psalm 121 This is my next by tyndale


									“Climb Every Mountain or Die Trying”
Psalm 121

This is my next to the last sermon about my sabbatical experience. Today I want to talk
with you about mountain-climbing…I loved it and I hated it…

I climbed two mountains while I was on sabbatical this summer. I climbed Cairngorm
Mountain in Scotland by myself and climbed Hochfelln in Bavaria with my family and
Mike Ross. I loved it and I hated it… Both times I considered stopping before I reached
the summit.

My legs burned, my lungs hurt, and I wondered if climbing either of those mountains
were all that they were cracked up to be. Both times I was glad that I persevered. And
both times I experienced a tremendous blessing or gift from God.

While I was alone in Scotland, I drove down from Inverness, alongside Loch Ness to the
little town of Avie More where Cairngorm Mountain is. It is 3000 feet high. I ascended
as far as the path would allow me. It was a tough hike! The last half mile was almost 45
degree incline all the way. When I made it to the top I sat down and wrote in my journal:

       Up on the mountain is the sound of sheer silence where God is. What is a
       mountaintop experience? It is a “God’s-eye view”. It is seeing a wee bit of what
       perhaps God sees when He looks over us. It is the sheer silence of grace, love,
       and joy all bound together. It is in knowing that I have purpose outside of what I
       do or who I know. I am here in the Holy Presence! Now I have this part of the
       mountain all to myself. I will never forget what it is like to be in the Presence. I
       don’t want to come down but I must.

Psalm 121 is called “a psalm of ascent.” The people of Israel walked to Jerusalem, one
of the highest elevations in the country, to travel to worship at the yearly festivals. They
did not have expensive hiking boots or shoes or sunglasses or anything to make their
journey more comfortable.

Three times a year faithful Hebrews made a trip to Jerusalem on foot. They refreshed
their memories of God’s saving ways at the Feast of Passover in the spring; they
renewed their commitments as god’s covenanted people at the Feast of Pentecost in
early summer, they responded as a blessed community to the best that God had for
them at the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. They were a redeemed people, a
commanded people, and a blessed people. That’s what we are here…

We are all on a journey here. We are on a lifelong journey of discipleship as people
who are walking to follow Jesus in our everyday lives as the years go by.

We have some mountains to climb here at Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church. We
have the Leadership Mountain. We have the Stewardship Mountain. And, we have the
Commitment Mountain.

We need to climb them, climb every one of these mountains or die trying! In fact
if we don’t climb these mountains we will die spiritually as Christians and as a

We are on a journey as a congregation. Whether you believe it or not, we are
considered to be one of the stronger congregations in our presbytery. We have so
many persons involved in the work of the presbytery from this congregation. We need
to apply this sense of commitment and participation in God’s work here in our local
congregation. You have heard the invitation from the Nominating Committee to
consider being an elder or deacon here. If you are active member here, you are eligible
to stand for election to these offices. There is no age limit; you are neither too young
nor too old to serve God. God does not accept that as an excuse. That is the
Leadership Mountain.

There is also the Stewardship Mountain. You have already heard from Warren Dolsen
today. He has shared with you his experience of climbing the Stewardship Mountain.
You have heard that the Dolsens actually give 20% of their income to God; 10% to our
church, 10% to their church in Venice, FL where they go for the winter. This raises the
bar for the rest of us. This tells us that you can climb the mountain. When you climb a
mountain God is with you all the way. The Holy Presence is there. And, you can see
that Presence in Warren’s face and hear it in his voice…

This is a generous congregation because there are people like Warren and Doris
Dolsen in it leading the way. They don’t make the old, worn-out excuses of “Well, I am
on a fixed income, I cannot afford to give.” You cannot afford NOT to give because it is
as much a spiritual discipline that is good for your soul as exercise is good for your

There is the Commitment Mountain. Are you committed to becoming a better disciple?
Are you committed to learning more about God? As Presbyterians we are committed to
lifelong Christian Education—cradle to grave. It bothers me that there are not more
people involved in our fine Christian Education classes.

Get involved in one of our many educational offerings… Get into God’s Word so that it
gets into you! This Psalm 121 is a good place to start. It is a good psalm to memorize
so that it gets deep down into your core being:
                                I lift up my eyes to the hills—
                             from where will my help come?
                               My help comes from the LORD,
                              who made heaven and earth.
                             He will not let your foot be moved;
                           he who keeps you will not slumber.
                                       He who keeps Israel
                              will neither slumber nor sleep.
                                   The LORD is your keeper;

                       the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
                             The sun shall not strike you by day,
                                  nor the moon by night.
                            The LORD will keep you from all evil;
                                   he will keep your life.
                                     The LORD will keep
                            your going out and your coming in
                             from this time on and forevermore

If you study it, you will find that three times in Psalm 121 God is referred to by the
personal name Yahweh, translated as GOD. Eight times he is described as the
guardian or keeper, or the one who guards. He is not an impersonal executive giving
orders from on high; he is present help every step of the way we travel.

If you study it even deeper you will find more riches:

       Three possibilities for harm to travelers are referred to in this psalm. A person
       traveling on foot can at any moment step on a loose stone and sprain his ankle.
       A person traveling on foot under protracted exposure to the hot sun, can become
       faint with sunstroke. And a person traveling for a long distance on foot, under the
       pressures of fatigue and anxiety, can become emotionally ill, which was
       described by the ancient writers as moonstroke (or by us as lunacy). (Eugene
       Petersen, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, page 39)

   •   Are you committed to making this world a better place before you leave it? Then
       get involved in one of the many community missions we support…
   •   Are you committed to using God’s gifts? Do you have a mind that thinks and
       questions? Then study…
   •   Can you sing? Can you play an instrument? Then commit yourself to choir or
       hand bells or praise team and show up to practice your gift…
   •   Can you make flowers grow? Can you cook? Can you teach others? Get
       involved…get involved…get involved…get committed, don’t just be a pew sitter

I had it drilled into head in seminary that being a Presbyterian meant serving God
outside the comfort of my own congregation or church. It meant serving somewhere
where talents and passion intersect. That is why I serve on the Camp Greenwood

Yes, I know pastors who never serve on a presbytery committee or agency, who never
even show up to presbytery, and I can name their names. It is no accident that the
word “committee” is derived from the same root as “commit”.

Folks, you and I are all travelers and we have mountains to climb together. We need to
climb every mountain for our own spiritual well-being in the strength of God with the
Holy Presence of God. Amen.


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