Dear Members of our Parish Community
One year, when undecided where to take our summer holiday, No 2 daughter marched me into the travel agent. I emerged 30 mins later having booked a holiday in Zell-am-See. As a result of Claire’s intervention, Mary and I discovered Austria (I accept that the Hapsburgs were there first!) and we embarked on a love affair with Austria, the Tyrol and Slovenia. Austria was a change from the series of family holidays we had enjoyed on the North Devon Coast and the challenges of negotiating narrow, winding and steep Devonian roads!!
Now Mary and I had no wish to emulate the mountaineering skills of Chris Bonnington, Edmund Hilary or Tenzing Norgay. Not for us the need to train or master the use of ice axes, crampons, ropes and karabiners, or to model salopettes and helmets. It is far easier to use the ski lifts that operate in the summer and take intrepid walkers up to over the rolling hills to start the walking adventure. We focused on the need to learn to speak German – or rather I tried, Mary was more confident and proficient. (On one occasion, when we attempted to use our German, we discovered that the stall-holder, high in the Austrian Alps, came from Yorkshire!)
The trick, of course to a holiday in the Alps, is to remember your age and avoid moving off the known track and pretending to be a mountain goat or William Tell. We never did learn that lesson but it made for some interesting expeditions and promises (never kept) not to repeat our mistakes. On one excursion we walked, and not by design, from Austria into Italy. And in case you were wondering: No! We did not wander the hills singing “Climb every mountain”. (Don’t you have to be a nun to do that?)
There is something exhilarating and magical walking in the mountains. The vista of towering peaks, rolling hills, lush valleys and freshwater lakes, the exercise and clean fresh air, is relaxing physically, and spiritually. (Now I sound like a travel guide.) Have you noticed how many events in the Bible happen on mountains? God is everywhere in His creation but a mountain is a special place where the presence of God is manifested in a wide variety of ways.
The events described in two of the readings this weekend are located on mountains and the overall theme is one of transformation in our lives if we believe in God’s promises and obey His will.
The first reading is the story of Abraham and Isaac. God puts Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. We hear how his total faith and obedience transformed the life of Abraham. Imagine how Abraham felt as he climbed up into the hills of Moriah. Then put yourself in the place of Isaac. What was he thinking? “We’re here to offer a sacrifice but I don’t see a suitable victim. Father….? ChildLine. Where’s ChildLine?” Abraham’s faith is very strong and he is willing to do whatever the Lord asks of him. The faith and trust of Isaac in his father is also strong. Are we prepared to surrender ourselves in the same way and trust God completely?
Paul in his letter to the Romans shares with the first reading the image of a father's willingness to give up his son and the son’s readiness to accept the father’s will wholeheartedly. In the Gospel we read Mark’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus is shown as the fulfilment of the law and the prophets and Peter, James and John see Him in all His glory.
Like Abraham, Isaac, Peter James and John, trusting in God can transform our lives.
Last week I invited you to list the instances where 40 days or 40 years are mentioned in the Bible. This week, can you list the occasions when God is encountered on a mountain?
Keep safe. Keep smiling. God bless you.