Worship Theme: Come, Lord Jesus—As King

Sermon Theme: Let’s Climb that Mountain!

It may not feel like we’re about to climb a mountain, but that’s exactly what happens as we take steps from Bethlehem all the way up to Golgotha and back down again. The message in Isaiah 2:1-5 may be two thousand seven hundred years old, but it’s more relevant than a news-push on your phone:Let’s Climb That Mountain!” November 27, 2022.

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My brother-in-law climbs mountains. That’s not for me and maybe not for you. Mt. Rainier, Denali, you name it, and I’ll say, “Oh, no!” He’ll say, “Let’s go!” There are times in life when we’ve all felt like we’re facing a mountain, a new school year, signing your life away to buy a home, the start of a new career, like being the Family Minister at Grace, and those mountains we face can hit us in one of two ways, either, “Oh, no!” or “Let’s go!”

This is the first Sunday of Advent, the start of a new church year. It may not feel like we’re about to climb a mountain, but that’s exactly what happens as we take steps from Bethlehem all the way up to Golgotha and back down again. What’s our reaction? Let’s take apathy, “No big deal,” and avoidance, “Count me out,” off the table. Will the start of that climb raise a tide of anxiety – “There’s so much on my mind, house decorating, gift purchase, menu planning, parties to go to!” – or waves of excitement? The prophet Isaiah’s message in today’s first reading may be two thousand seven hundred years old, but it’s more relevant than a news-push on your phone: Let’s Climb That Mountain!

For Protection

When the devil pushes a boulder of guilt onto your shoulders, where do you go? When he uses Hamiltons, Jacksons, and Grants as a booby trap to snare you into greed and materialism, where do you go? When he fires the poisoned dart of selfishness at your heart, where do you go?

In the year 1003 BC, King David established his capital on the highest hill in the center of the land of Israel. There he built a city, later known as Jerusalem, and made plans for the construction of a worship facility designed to replace the portable worship tent which had been in use for four hundred years. His son, Solomon, carried out those plans. Over a span of seven years, using thousands of laborers and tons of gold, Solomon completed the temple, a symbol of God’s dwelling among his people. It didn’t take long for Jerusalem to be known as the city of God and the hill which featured the temple to be called the mountain of the LORD.

Because of its location on a high hill, Jerusalem was easily defended, rising eighty to one hundred feet above the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys. As the years passed, kings and rulers like Nehemiah constructed massive walls that transformed Jerusalem into a fortress. Whenever a band of enemy soldiers threatened the well-being of the Israelite people in the surrounding territory, where would they go? Behind a tree? In the fruit cellar? No! To the mountain of the Lord! There they found protection, safety, and peace. The mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills ... [God’s people] will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. However, if Isaiah was speaking exclusively about Jerusalem, then his prophecy did not come true. The people of Israel were often unfaithful to the Lord. Jerusalem’s walls crumbled. Enemies broken in, conquered, and scattered the people.

Isaiah must have had something much better in mind. And he did! The true mountain of the LORD is the Christian Church where the words of God offer protection for our souls like a fortress. Guilt got you down? In this holy Word God calls out, There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Let’s climb that mountain! Greed grabbing your heart? In his holy Word God promises an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4). Let’s climb that mountain! The poisoned dart of selfishness is flying at your heart? In his holy Word God offers the breastplate of righteousness … the shield of faith … the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesian 6:14,16-17). Let’s climb that mountain!

For Direction

To organize a visible Christian church and learn how to work together, where do we go? To detect false teaching and promote the truth, where do we go? For Abbie to assist parents in getting back to basics and growing in loving relationships in a family, where does she go?

Jerusalem not only served as the center of Israelite military and political strength. It was also the Israelite center of learning. All the top scholars lived there, lecturing in the temple courtyards, researching the scrolls of the prophets at the temple. Jerusalem’s schools became the Harvard and Stanford of the land. If you wanted direction for your life, if you wanted to know how to live in God’s world, if you wanted to know what to do as an Israelite, where would they go? To the mountain of the LORD where he will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths ... Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. However, if Isaiah was speaking exclusively about Jerusalem, then this prophecy did not come true. The people of Israel didn’t always listen to God’s direction for their lives. They listened to whatever they wanted to hear and ended up poverty, broken homes, injustice in the courts, disobedient children, abuse, immoderation, and immorality.

Isaiah must have had something much better in mind. And he did! The true mountain of the LORD is the Christian Church where the words of God give direction to our lives. To organize a visible Christian church and learn how to work together, Gods says, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its part” (Ephesians 4:15-16). Let’s climb that mountain! To detect false teaching and promote the truth, Jesus says, “Hold to my teaching … Then you will know the truth” (John 8:31). Let’s climb that mountain! For Abbie to assist parents in getting back to basics and growing in loving relationships in a family, God says, “Tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD” (Psalm 78:4). Let’s climb that mountain!

For Proclamation

Where can people go to learn the real truth about the real true God? You can’t expect someone to learn about Jesus’ blood and gift of righteousness sitting cross-legged and mindlessly mumbling a mantra at the Ganges River. You can’t expect someone to learn about God’s saving love by bringing fruit to the foot of Mt. Fujisama in Japan. Nor will anyone get any closer to God by traipsing seven times around the Kaaba, a black stone in Mecca, Arabia, or by fasting during daylight hours for a month.

Palestine was positioned at the crossroads of the ancient world. Major trade routes intersected on Israelite territory. Major shipping lanes converged at their shores. People from all over the world visited the mountain of the LORD. God’s purpose for this geographical arrangement was to allow easy avenues for the proclamation of his promises. The mountain of the LORD … will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it ... The law [instruction] will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. However, if Isaiah was speaking exclusively about Jerusalem, then his prophecy did not come true. The Israelites never carried out their mission objectives. Over the centuries those people became more and more introverted and even passed laws to avoid contact with non-Israelites. Do you recall the disciples’ disdain for the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter and their surprise when Jesus stopped at the well where a Samaritan woman was drawing water and actually engaged her in conversation?

Isaiah must have had something much better in mind. And he did! The true mountain of the LORD is the Christian Church where the words of God are proclaimed to all. Every believer has the commission from Jesus, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This is not just the job of the Outreach Pastor or the Family Minister. Each Christian individually and all Christians collectively stand as shining beacons of God’s love in a world gone cold and darkened by sin. As those who trust in Jesus alone for the gift of a close connection with God now and forever, we are the Church, we are on and in the mountain of the LORD and proclaim the message of the mountain of the LORD. So, if someone asks, “What advantage is there in being a Christian?” we can tell that person, “Christianity means that every day we are living on the mountain of the LORD. We can’t help speaking about what we have seen and heard, and we want you to share in the joy. You don’t have to live in the valley of anxiety when the dam breaks and worries flood in. You don’t have to resort to a bottle filled with a mind-numbing liquid or with pills for relief. You don’t have to end up pinned under temptations beyond the count of three. There is joy. There is hope. There is a tomorrow filled with God’s goodness and care and mercy as he proclaims to the crooked and confused, to the damaged and downhearted, to the self-centered and stubborn, of which I am one, and I bet you are, too, “I still love you and want to be with you and you with me. Want proof? Check what’s coming at the end of Advent. My gift, my forgiveness, my Son for you.” Let’s climb that mountain!”

Abbie will be installed as our Family Minister today. How can we help her? How can we all walk along side and support her through the challenges of her career shift? Good questions and a great day to ask them, the first Sunday of Advent. No matter what has been going on in your life, no matter how frustrated or apathetic or pessimistic you may have been coming into church today, we are stepping onto the foothills of the mountain of a new church year. “Oh, no” or “Let’s go”? Take to heart the message of Isaiah the prophet, and let’s climb that mountain. Amen.

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