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How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

By Walter B. Fenton

Photo by Hugues de Buyer-Mimeure on Unsplash.

Fortunately, other than sore muscles and bruised egos, we returned safely to the lodge after an overnight hiking trip on a Colorado mountain one April day, many years ago. Two boys from the flatlands of Illinois, we were confident we could climb the 11,000 foot plus snow covered peak in two stages: a late afternoon hike half-way to the top, and then after a few hours of rest, we’d rise in the darkness to take the summit and watch the sun rise over the vast plains to the east!

Things started well but faltered by sunset. The snow under the tall pines was deeper than we anticipated, slowing our progress; we set up camp short of half-way. The fire we thought we could build with leaves, twigs, and fallen branches was a hopeless endeavor. We burned every piece of paper we had with us – including our map – in a failed attempt to stay warm. We shivered in our sleeping bags under a cold black sky, and we did not get the early start we had planned.

Still, we trudged on, reaching the summit by mid-afternoon, not sunrise. And instead of feeling prideful about our accomplishment, we just wanted to get back down that mountain and in front of one of the lodge’s roaring fireplaces. Looking back on our journey, we realized we were unprepared to the point of foolishness.

In the Book of Isaiah there are multiple references to mountains, and also to valleys and deserts. And God is often depicted as making a way for his people over, through, and around these obstacles. “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low,” says the prophet. “The uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain” (40:4). Along that path called “the Holy Way . . . no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray” (35:8).

Soaring words of consolation and hope for ancient exiles held captive in a foreign land continue to inspire us. We too are a people in need of consolation and hope. This year ends as so many have down through the ages: the ravages and burdens of natural disasters and diseases, social and economic strife, and in the worst cases violence, war, and terrible atrocities. Humankind and the whole creation groan for the day the world is ultimately delivered from the curse of sin that threatens to sink us in the darkness of despair and destruction.

Despite our foolishness, our hubris, and even our wickedness, we continue to have faith with the prophet that God is making a way for us. It is not mere wishful thinking on our part. It is made manifest in the Christ who entered the world as an infant and suffered death on a cross for our sins. It is confirmed by the daily and countless acts of human kindness, grace, and even sacrifice inspired by Christ the Lord who makes a way for us over, through and around all obstacles.

Perhaps most remarkable, is that the God who does not need our help invites us and makes a way for us to participate in proclaiming the good news of redemption and liberation. “Get you up to a high mountain (40.9),” he says to the foolish, the prideful, to all sinners who know they are in need of God’s redeeming. Embrace the privilege of being a joyful and obedient messenger of the Gospel that has delivered you from exile and captivity. And so know “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation” (52.7)!

May all the people of the Global Methodist Church fully embrace the invitation to participate in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Let us “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!”

You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.

The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.

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