I am not a mountain climber, but I am a mountain observer and participant. The need to look up to experience awe and insight has impacted my life journey.
My father grew up at the foot of a mountain on an island in Norway. When he misbehaved as a child, his parents sent him to his grandparents who lived on a mountain meadow above them. Many years later I stood on that mountain with him. As we looked down on his childhood valley home, he shared what the mountain meant to him.
It was my destiny to grow up at the foot of a cornfield in northwest Iowa. My children saw both skyscrapers and mountains in the moves we made during their childhood. Now all my children and most of my grandchildren are growing up in valleys at the foot of mountains.
Mountains define our community. Our homes may cling to them. Our eyes experience them, and some of us climb them. Mountains define our weather, lift our moods and, if not respected, endanger our lives. Mountain avalanches produce more thunder than the sky. Avalanches are awesome to observe from a distance but up close may endanger our lives or even darken our homes when power lines are swept away by them.
It is in the valleys that we do our living. Federal and state business, commercial and residential buildings, schools, hospital, births and deaths are lived out at the foot of the mountains.
In the valleys we struggle to discover the meaning of life. Sometimes we are in a fog - literally and personally. At other times, the winds clear our minds or blow us away. Rain and snow create our rainforest and frequently hide the sun that we long to see. The mountains help define it all.
Many who gather in our churches worship with a mountain view. They celebrate the seasons of the church year and the seasons of their lives as births, baptisms, weddings and funerals take place in the shadow of mountains. As a pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran church, I competed with a mountain view for people's attention during the sermon. Now as a worshiper at Resurrection Lutheran, I too have a mountain view as I listen to Pastor Sue's sermon. People live, learn and grow in faith at the foot of the mountains.
In the Bible, mountains played an important role in the lives of God's people. Mountains are referred to as places of worship, as a part of God's creation, as geographical boundaries, places of ambush, scenes of military combat, a habitat for goats and birds, and as a place of refuge. Sometimes mountains serve some of those same purposes for us today.
At times we may feel like a "strong mountain." At other times we feel out of control as though we are in danger of being caught up in an avalanche.
Whenever we look up, we have the awesome resource of mountains to lift us and help define our lives. Too often we fail to look up. We take the mountains for granted and fail to see how they influence our lives. These words from Amos 4:13 might help us share what the mountains mean to us:
"For lo, the one who forms the mountains,
creates the wind,
reveals his thoughts to mortals,
makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth -
the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name."
Larry Rorem is a retired pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran who now worships at Resurrection Lutheran Church.