December 2, 2020
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 

Isaiah 2:1–4
Mountain lessons
The tiny stone chapel was nestled on the side of a mountain. No larger than a child’s playhouse, it captivated my 8-year-old imagination. I had to go inside. As I entered, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of stillness that led me to sit reverently on a bench for quite some time. It was only my mother’s worried cries coming from the outside — “Donna! Donna!” — that broke my moment of contemplation.

We were on a family vacation visiting my father’s relatives in Switzerland, and we were hiking in an area of the Alps which he had called his “backyard” as a boy. We wanted to go up to the mountains to enjoy the amazing vistas. But I found much more: I found God and God found me. I went up to the mountain that day and came down wanting to walk in God’s paths — paths that would twist and turn, and lead me into ministry many years later.

This Advent, the prophet Isaiah invites us to go up the mountain so that we can once again be taught by God and learn to walk in God’s ways. That mountain doesn’t have to be a literal one to climb. It can be any moment in our lives in which we seek to go further and higher with God. Those mountain climbs are the ones where we want something more in life — more love than hate, more joy amid sadness, more peace than conflict — and we realize that “more” can only come from God.

In the documentary, “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story,” filmmaker Martin Doblmeier, shares the “mountain” moment that impacted Thurman’s life. It was a trip to India where the Black pastor met with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi had wanted to learn more about the Black struggle in America. Thurman, in turn, wanted to hear more about the nonviolent approach to resistance that was foundational to Gandhi’s spiritual life. Thurman would return from that “mountain” and share for years come about the power of living peacefully, even amid opposition. In a divided world where joy seems fleeting, we need to climb our metaphorical mountains of the Lord. We need to ascend to those places where we can learn to be people who walk in God’s ways.

Pray
God of mountaintop lessons, help me climb higher in my knowledge of you, so that I may walk in your ways all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
Take a moment during your day to visualize walking up the mountain of the Lord as spoken by the prophet Isaiah. What do you see? Is the walk hard? Once at the top, sit quietly and ask for the God path to be revealed to you.
Presbyterians Today
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