Toorak Uniting Church

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Journey to the top

Exodus 24: 12 – 18
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
6 February, 2005

Imagine yourself at this moment in time, in your life as it is at the moment, as if you are at the foot of a mountain, think of the journey that has brought you here and the community of family and friends that surrounds you. Think of the community of this Church and the part it plays in your life, how it stands around you, what your journey has been like so far with this congregation.
Where have you come from? Where are you hoping for?

Now imagine you are to get ready for a journey. You have to prepare for a strenuous track up a mountain and you are allowed to choose, from your friends, one helper.
Who will you chose?

Why?

Is it difficult to choose or is there somebody that immediately springs to mind? Would this person be happy to go with you do you think? Feel flattered even? Or would you have to convince them? Would it be easy for you to ask, or would you find it difficult?

It is God who is calling you on this journey. Would you share that piece of information with your friend? Or would you feel that was private? Would you feel comfortable with feeling you’ve been called by God to do something? Has a feeling like that ever occurred in your life? Could it ever occur do you think?

Such was what happened to Moses: called by God to climb the mountain Moses first looks at his community, chooses 70 people to accompany him the first part of his journey and then chooses one friend, Joshua to accompany him on his climb up to the top.

Back to the mountain again. Imagine the mountain, any mountain you know or can imagine climbing. And there you are, climbing the mountain with your friend at your side. Have you done this before? Climbed a mountain? Can you imagine what it feels like, going up? Your legs getting tired, looking up and wondering how far you still have to go, looking down to see how far up you are?

What was it like? How did you feel?

Now you’re climbing to God. God is at the summit, waiting for you. How does that make you feel? Does it change anything?

Now think: Have there ever been moments like that in your life, spiritual moments where you were climbing to reach God, where you longed for God and felt drawn, called even, into his presence?

Now return to the mountain. You’ve climbed a long way and you are getting tired. Your friend can’t go any further, you’ll have to leave him or her behind her and go on your own. The last part of you journey you’ll have to do on your own. The hardest part.

How does that make you feel?
How do you reckon it would have made Moses feel?

Take a deep breath, for here on it is you, just you, climbing up to the top, making yourself ready for an encounter with the divine, expecting light and revelation. Ready for big things to happen……..

You climb and you climb and you climb.

And then there is fog. Low hanging cloud that confuses you and makes you lose your way. You can see the path only a few steps ahead, you’re not sure what is up or down……
Have you ever been in an actual fog like that?

What was it like?

And in your life? What is it that tends to fog up your vision in such a way that you can’t see any more? That you’re no longer sure where you’re going or what you’re doing?

Moses is in that fog for 6 whole days. Wandering, waiting.

And then there is God and light, and insight.

Think of the moments you have had where you "saw" where life was suddenly crystal clear, where God revealed himself to you, either in nature, possibly on a mountain top looking down across the valley or in a more spiritual sense, when you felt you were close to God all of a sudden with everything falling into place?

Moses enjoys that experience, of being on the mountaintop with God, seeing, understanding, communicating face to face with the divine for 40 days. Days in which he receives guidance for his own life and that of his people for centuries to come.

Consider what you have received from God. What are the gifts of God in your life? Were they received as revelation, as sudden insights as in Moses case? Or was it perhaps more gradual, less spectacular, but nevertheless there?
Are they gifts that enable you to serve others with them? Like Moses was able to serve his people with what he received?

Now slowly turn away from the place where you have encountered the divine, the mountaintop with the clear views and peak experience. It’s time to go down, to go back to your friend who is waiting for you halfway down the mountain, to go back to your community, to day to day living.

But before you descend just take a moment to consider: What are you expecting down there? Will it be good? Bad? Hard? Happy?

For Moses the return wasn’t a happy one. His people had deviated from the guidance God had given and were worshipping other gods.

They were dancing around the golden calf.

How do you think Moses would have felt? How would you feel?

Moses was very angry and disappointed, in fact he completely lost the plot. Is that something you would be able to understand?

God did not let go, he travelled on, with the Israelites, through the desert, to the promised land, through the centuries, to the present day, here with us.

Offering us food and drink on the journey, and guidance as to where to go and how, calling us to him, on the mountain, travelling with us through the desert, going before us in light and cloud, showing us the way, wanting us to go, that way, his way, to not let other gods come in between him and us.

…..

Prayer:

Be with us when we stand at the foot of a mountain and we are daunted by the task that you have called us to perform.

Be with us when we are half way up and our friends’ strength fails them and there is only you and our own strength to rely on. Help us when we are lonely, help us when we are that friend that just cannot go all the way to the end of a difficult journey with someone.

Be with us in the fog. When life gets confusing and we are no longer sure what is up or down. When we are unsure of where we are going and what we are doing. When we wonder where you are and why you are hiding from our sight.

Be with us when everything becomes clear. When we feel close to you and whole and healed and everything is as it should be. When we find ourselves in a place where we want to stay for ever, a time we never want to stop.

Be with us when we come down from the mountain and difficulty and hardship comes our way. When we are confronted, after good and happy times, with worry and trouble, and things aren’t going as we would want them to go.

Be with anybody when they go through the ups and downs of life, through the ups and downs of faith, through the ups and downs of living with others, finding friends, feeling let down, being disappointed in others. Be with our world where journeys are often long and hard but interspersed with moments of profound joy and great happiness.
Look after our world and all who live in it, with your love and your compassion. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005


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