Isaiah 56, 1-7, I will bring them to my holy mountain.
Psalm 67, Oh, God, Let all the nations praise you.
Romans1, 13-15, 29-32 I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Matthew 15, 21-28, It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.
Isaiah 56 observations:
As soon as you see Isaiah, chapter 56, you know some things, if you are into the study of the Bible and especially of Isaiah, my favorite.
- Isaiah 56 is Isaiah 3, chapter 56-66, the end of the book of Isaiah.
- Isaiah 3 is put together after the Babylonian Captivity, that is, around 555 before Christ.
- The Israelites have returned to Jerusalem, a totally destroyed, depressed city.
- Therefore, it is plausible to expect Isaiah 3 to be trying to lift up the spirits of the people. This he does, consoling the people with promises of a better time. Note: the better days are conditional on good behavior. Ever think of how our whole redemption story is conditional? Not much unconditional love. In other words, if you want my love and favor, behave.
I think I will pass on commenting on this gospel. I don't like it. I only partially understand the culture Matthew was dealing with in the story. And most of the commentaries simply try to explain away how harsh the story is.
Them I will bring to my holy mountain
Of all the lines in the readings this morning, the line that touches me the most talks about bringing the people to the holy mountain. I am touched for two reasons.
First, you know how much I love to go camping in the mountains, and especially the mountains of Yosemite and the Sierras. In fact, on the 2nd of September about 8 of us are headed to Kings Canyon, one of two parks just south of Yosemite, to do our annual 10 day back packing trip.
Secondly, the mountain is a metaphor for the state of peace.
I would like to suggest two observations about going to the mountain of peace.
First, we get there easier and with greater happiness with others.
Secondly, sometimes the mountain is not what we expect or remember from a previous visit.
Three little stories of the week.
Probably July of 2004, as usual, I took a group of 8 guys to my favorite hike in Yosemite. I call it the Matterhorn Canyon trip. On about the 4th day we have to hike over Burro Pass, about 11 K feet. There are three passes on this trip. Two are called Burro and this one is in the middle. Matterhorn Canyon is precisely where we camped out for the night.
We get up and go up the canyon and then up switch backs non-stop for a few hours. It is hard on everyone. On this trip it is especially hard on one guy. He is out of shape and gasping for breath. I am afraid he is not going to make it.
So I get to the pass, dump my pack, return down the switch backs, take his pack, and up we go together. We make it. Over the pass and below is my most favorite campsite in the whole world. We set off and get there, too.
Sitting around the fire that evening, I had a strong sense of accomplishment, contentment, and peace. I was able to help someone to the top who might not have made it otherwise. This is on top of the fact that I am in heaven.
The second story takes place on the same favorite hike, Matterhorn Canyon, but in 2009. This time guess who is having the rough time, not because of being out of shape. The hips are shot.
That year I could go up, but just walking was rough and going down was really rough. I had to borrow two ski poles. Rose Banzhaf loaned me the poles and walked with me. Mike Moran helped me get across streams and watched out for me.
The last morning after an 8 mile hike out, everyone has already been at the little restaurant at the trail head and I am just hobbling along, Rose sticking with me. At about a mile out, I surrender and Rose calls for help from a car. Tom & Daniel Fleming come to the rescue. I will always remember the sight of Daniel coming toward me to take my backpack.
I had made it to the peace of the mountain. I just needed help to get down. Still peaceful. Then, the decision was easy. I got new hips within 5 months. And last year we visited my favorite Matterhorn Canyon for the first time. Talk about gratitude and peace.
The third little story comes from the Matterhorn trip last year. I was longing to return to that favorite campsite after coming over Burro Pass. We got there and I am saying, “This can’t be it.” The campsite, which I have used perhaps 6 times, was a wreck, trees all knocked down, the stream following a different course. It was the campsite. 60 mile an hour straight line winds had passed through and seemed to hit just that spot especially hard.
We camped there even though I was bummed. I could see the places where I could remember some of our people camping in previous years. But it was a mess.
We spent a whole day there and with time I discovered that across the creek was a really nice level campsite. That will be for next time.
It is so nice to climb the mountain of peace with company, and even to come down.
The mountain may not be what I expected. But peace can still be found by searching around.
Where is your mountain and who are your companions on the climb?