A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Advent 16

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways that we may walk in His paths.”  Here it is in simple English – invitations to first seek God and then allow him to teach us how to be disciples. St. Augustine understood this when he told us “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee O Lord.”   It is that restlessness of our hearts that impels us to discover not only the Love of God but to find the meaning and purpose for our existence.

I remember talking with a young man in Alaska, who was training to climb Mount Denali – 20,310 feet of rock and ice. The challenge of Denali lays in its steep vertical rise which is greater than Everest and its rugged terrain, its freezing temperatures and low barometric pressure. His goal was not just to attempt the climb but to reach the summit which is something only half those who climb Denali actually attain. He described his rigorous 20 month training schedule in order to qualify him for a permit to attempt the climb. The next step after obtaining a permit would be to continue his training in order to be successful in his attempt.

That young man had a desire that drove him to do whatever was necessary to reach the summit. I thought of the contrast between his dedication and that of the tourists staying in the park lodge.  Their quest for the summit was an unobstructed view while sitting in lounge chairs with food in their laps and drinks in their hands.  They reminded me of the people in Noah’s days eating, drinking and going on with life as normal while others were preparing for something God had planned.

The contrast between us who call ourselves Christians and those who do not follow Christ should be just as dramatic.

Are our lives so much different than those in Noah’s day?  I do not think we as believers intentionally ignore our call to respond to God.  In fact, I believe we wake up each day with a desire to be the best possible disciple in all we do and say.  However, as our day begins there are voices that demand we follow them instead of God. Therein lays the challenge for us if we are ever going to make progress in our quest to follow God.

Those other voices disturb our peace and cause us worry and anxiety.  They eat up our time and energy as we deal with fixing what is broken and calming what is fearful.  We feel we must address these things that pop up in our lives and after we address them it is inevitable that another issue will pop up.

I am not implying we should not take care of our children when they need us or ignore a leaking pipe that threatens to flood your home. I am not saying we should not respond to the needs of our neighbor.  I am saying that there is a place we can go to in the midst of everyday crises to find peace and the presence of God. It is in that place where God shows us how to overcome pain, abandonment and doubt.  It is there the issues of the day will never rob us of our connection with God.  It is in those times of crises that all our preparation to become disciples begins to pay dividends.

Each day we will encounter things within ourselves, things from others and nature that will distract us from living in the grace of God.   Those daily distractions will divert from going where God waits for us to discover the truth that each one of those diversions make God seem distant and uncaring. We will convince ourselves that we can go climb that mountain tomorrow – we can go pray tomorrow.

Yes we can but do we ever get to the point where we have done everything we need to do to climb that mountain to encounter God.  That young man had a plan and his plan was going to take him to the summit of Denali. That summit was a place where the natives in earlier times believed God lived. I do not believe that young man believed God lived up on that summit. However, we do believe in God and he expects us during our journey to discover the truth of the depth and constancy of his love. It is in responding to his invitation to climb the mountain we will experience the mercy and forgiveness he offers us. It is when we understand forgiveness and mercy we will be able to help others seek him.

We only have to go to our interior self to hear the voice of God speaking to us.

How do we do that? We must commit to spending a short time each day listening to God and inviting him into our hearts.  It is then we will learn how to get in touch with the one who offered us peace in the midst of turmoil. When we can be faithful in this first part of our attempts to encounter God then we begin to increase the time we spend listening to him speak to our hearts.  It is our private prayer and in hearing him speak to us in the scriptures that we begin to get stronger and stronger in our faith.

Once this happens we will never ever not be able to hear his voice. There will be nothing that will distract us from constantly feeling the love of God – not powers, nor principalities, no height of joy or depth of pain, not present afflictions nor future afflictions. We will always stand on the summit of the mountain of God and behold the wonders our God has worked in our midst.

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