Crosses at the Crossroads: The High Mountain

March 12, 2017

Last week we explored the desert of our lives.  We realized at the intersection of mercy and forgiveness the desert environment allows us to be thirsty, hungry and in need.  It is there at that intersection we meet Jesus.  So what does the mountain have to teach us?  The scripture account from Matthew begins with Jesus doing the leading of Peter, James and John up a high mountain.  We sometimes glance over the beginning of this story because we so much want to get to the Transfiguration and the hearing the voice of the Father, but we should not. The beginning is crucial to the account.

How do we prepare to climb a mountain?  We might look for a map.  We might make sure we have provisions such as water.  We might look to the weather and see what extra clothing we might need.  When climbing a high mountain we might have to use more than our legs. We might need to use our hands to carry ourselves up to the higher level.  If our footing is not secure, we might need the helping hand of another.  Most likely in those days they would have been following Jesus in single file as most high mountains did not have paved roads or ski lifts to take them up.  The disciples were fisherman so they were most likely strong in their upper bodies from drawing in their nets, but they might not have been so strong in the legs.  This climb might have challenged them.  One of the great things about hiking is that it gives time to think.  At this crossroads we must ask ourselves a few questions.  How well do we do with following?  How often do we challenge the direction or course of the journey?  How often if we fall behind do we just give up?   It says Jesus just led the three. Where were the others? Did they not choose to go traveling with Jesus that day?  Did they think the climb was too difficult and give up before they even started?  We only know of the three who made it to the top.

One of the great crosses we must face in all of our lives is pride and ego.  How do we really follow?  How often do we undercut the authority of the leader by our side comments?  It is at this point a real struggle occurs in many of our lives.  We want Jesus to follow us.  We want Him to grant answers to our prayer requests.  To surrender to being led is to give up control.  Sometimes in our homes, one person always has to have the last word. This is not following.  Social media has stolen the word.  Our following of Jesus has to be more than a click to say we are a follower.  We must be honest and admit the climb is hard, the footing is shaky and we must rely on others.  One of the biggest crosses we have to carry is to leave our ego and our pride at the base of the mountain.  This is a mighty crossroad, to let go of control.  If we are not struggling with this, we might not have even identified the ego and pride that grips our lives.  This kind of deception is a tool of the devil.

As an Eagle Scout, I was chosen along with some others to experience a winter survival camp in the boundary waters area in upper Minnesota.  We were all Eagle Scouts who went on this trip, eight of us and some adult leaders.  We felt we were the best of the best the Scout Council had to offer.  Each of us were accomplished in our own ways.  When we got there for the orientation, the leaders looked at the gear we packed and laughed at us.  We were not prepared for this cold weather; a cold so cold that if you left your clothes out they would freeze and crack apart.  We got schooled that night. Later we were given two guides to lead us, both of whom were highly skilled and both of whom were women.  Our egos and pride could not handle any more.  As we made snow huts in which to sleep, proud of what we learned, we slept under the stars at 15 degrees below zero.  We struggled to be led.  Our pride could have cost us our lives on the trip.  Surrender was the only place to go.  It was not easy for the accomplished Eagle Scouts to be taught by others, especially ones who did not have all the badges we did.

Secondly, on the mountain trail we must keep our eyes looking forward and not get distracted.  A distracted mountain climber costs the lives of others.  Jesus led the disciples to a place of great awakening.  They were given the gift.  Their doubt was removed after a long battle climbing the mountain. To get to what God wants us to see, we must stay focused.  One of the crosses we sometimes carry is being distracted.  We have so much to do, so many things to accomplish and so many relying on us, we lose focus.  Many have died on mountains and it only takes a second.  Sometimes the mountain is the car we drive.  It only takes a second to get distracted in the car and we put ourselves in danger.  When I was in Frankfort at St. Anthony Parish we would invite the teens of the parish to a presentation put on by the fire chief.  He had pictures of crashes in the area.  It was sobering to see damage that occurred just because the driver changed a playlist on their smart phone or looked back to tell someone in the back seat something.  How distracted are we?  Can we get through our prayers without thinking of something else we have to do?

At the crossroads of our distraction and our pride Jesus longs to transform Himself right before our eyes.  He longs to remove the doubt of who He is and what He can do.  To get there we must follow, to get there we must leave our pride behind and look at only one thing.

Reverend John J. Ouper