Now that we are retired, my wife, Mhairi, and I spend the summer months in our log cabin retreat on an island off the Maine coast. The cabin perches high above the shore looking due west; on the horizon, usually at sunrise and sunset, we catch the outline of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast. When the New England weather is particularly clear, we call it a “Mount Washington Day.” It is good to see it there, to glimpse its vastness, solidity, and grandeur, even at such a distance. It’s reassuring somehow and makes me feel grounded and secure.
Growing up in central Scotland—right on the edge of “The Highland Line,” the majestic crests of the Ochil range, and then Ben Lomond and the rest farther beyond—I knew a similar feeling. Mountains bring a sense of looming mystery too, of possibility and of wonder. So when the psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills, something within me leaps in recognition. I know what he is singing about. I’ve been there too.
The entire book of Psalms resonates for me from my Scottish youth. We sang hymns in church, but worship began with one of the metrical psalms, arranged with rhyming verse and meter for congregational singing. And for all their sober mien and dignified demeanor, the psalms instigated a palpably present powerful emotion and genuine faith as we sang this psalm to the tune Dundee or the beloved Twenty-Third Psalm to Crimond. Such simple yet profound piety, such basic trust in God’s Word and promises, lies at the heart of the Psalms. It is a conviction that, like the eternal hills, God’s promises stand firm and God’s strength is everlasting.
Lead me to the mountain, Lord. Let me share its strength. Amen.
The readings for this week provide an overview of the history of God’s people. Genesis recounts the story of Abraham, who because of his great faith leaves his home and goes to a land that God has promised to show him. The psalmist speaks for the descendants of Abraham, who trust in the Lord to watch over them and be their helper. Paul in Romans argues against those who believe that God’s grace is a result of correctly following religious law. It is Abraham’s faith (for there is no law in Abraham’s time) that prompts him to follow God, and for this he is commended. Both Gospel passages (John and Matthew) emphasize that the story of Jesus is the continuation of a relationship with God’s faithful people that began with Abraham.
Read Genesis 12:1-4a. Recall a major and a minor crossroads in your life. How did you listen for God’s call during each time?
Read Psalm 121. Reflect on the times in your life when this psalm has most strongly resonated with you. How do your strongest emotions point you to God’s presence?
Read Romans 4:1-5, 13-17. What motivates you to do good works? How do you balance “faith alone” and the action to which God calls you?
Read John 3:1-17. How do you hear again the powerful words of verses so familiar they permeate culture? What makes these words fresh for you?
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