The Mountain of the Lord

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 2.1-2
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 
2 In the last days 
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established 
as the highest of the mountains; 
it will be exalted above the hills, 
and all nations will stream to it. 
3 Many peoples will come and say, 
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, 
to the temple of the God of Jacob. 
He will teach us his ways, 
so that we may walk in his paths.” 
The law will go out from Zion, 
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Matthew 17.1-2
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 

Music:Mountains” — Interstellar, by Hans Zimmer
Reflection: The Mountain of the Lord
By John Tillman

Mountains were believed to be places where heaven and earth overlapped or touched. Every religion in the ancient near east put temples on hills. Even if the “temple” was just a hasty shrine under a spreading tree. (2 Kings 17.10; Deuteronomy 12.2) Peter wanted to set one up for Jesus after the Transfiguration. 

If there weren’t grand enough mountains, people built them. Towers, pyramids, and ziggurats reached toward not just the stars but the heavens.

Today, we don’t believe mountains touch heaven. Not exactly. But we do call our towers “skyscrapers” and we come close to worshiping those who dwell or work there. We are not so different from the ancients as we think.

Isaiah foresaw the mountain of God’s temple exalted and “established as the highest of the mountains.” 

Jerusalem is already situated on a high point. Mount Zion’s elevation is 2500 feet. Geographically, however, it is not the highest mountain in the region. It’s neighbor, The Mount of Olives, from which Jesus wept over the city, tops it by 200 feet. 

Is Isaiah speaking of a cataclysmic geological event, raising Zion higher than Everest?

Isaiah is speaking theologically, not geologically, but that does not mean there has not been a cataclysmic event. The cataclysm that overthrew the powers of this world was the cross. (Colossians 2.15) On the cross, Jesus descended to the lowest place and was raised to the highest. Jesus is the mountain, the Temple, that is exalted over all other gods, rulers, and authorities. (Ephesians 1.20–22)

We have only a foretaste of Isaiah’s promises. Jesus is exalted, yet we still languish. Humans glorify and enrich themselves through oppression. Powers rule over us. However, Isaiah’s promises will come to fullness. Every human leader holding themselves up for worship will have their legs cut from beneath them. Every oppressor will be thrown down. Every spiritual power will be crushed by the heel of our God.

In many images of the City of God, a river is depicted flowing from the city. In Isaiah we see a stream flowing uphill instead of down. It is a stream of people, from all nations, who are being drawn, against the gravity of this world, to Jesus.

Let our gravity be changed. Let every other “mountain” in our lives, by faith, be cast into the sea as we are drawn up.

“Come. Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9.11

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 2 (Listen – 3:00)
Matthew 17 (Listen – 3:46)

Read more about The Sin Which Fells Nations
From Isaiah we can learn that what looks like a great and powerful nation may actually be a spiritual wasteland of pride and greed.

Read more about Way of the Cross
How uncomfortable does the suffering servant make you?
Everyone rejected the suffering Christ—even the closest of his disciples.

Way of the Cross — A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Matthew 17.22-23
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

Reflection: Way of the Cross — A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Through the rest of this week, pray the words of scripture interspersed with those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this prayer we struggle, along with Peter, and Jesus himself, to accept the way of suffering.

Imagine Christ, victorious. A champion. Beneficent. Are you comfortable with the victorious Messiah?

A Christ who brings earthly victory enjoys near-universal welcome.

God’s way in the world leads to the cross and through the cross to life. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Matthew 16.21

Imagine Christ, humiliated. Crushed. Suffering. How uncomfortable does the suffering servant make you?

Everyone rejected the suffering Christ—even the closest of his disciples.

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’” Matthew 16.22-23

How easy it is, in times of confusion like today to fight in the name of Christ against the real Christ. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Often our discomfort with the suffering Christ is connected to our current level of comfort.
In our afflictions, we are glad to find the suffering Christ joining us.
But in our bliss and blessings, we do not wish to join him on his path.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you assess your level of comfort, your level of acceptance of the suffering Christ, and your willingness to step into suffering, embracing it as the path to life.

For this reason, do not be alarmed, do not be afraid—be faithful! But what does being faithful mean here other than standing and falling with the word of Christ, with his preaching of the kingdom of peace. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Pray through these words of Christ:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16.24-35

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning, I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 3 (Listen – 4:40) 
Matthew 17 (Listen – 3:46)

Read more about Looking Back at Good Friday
Good Friday is not just one day of the year. It is a day relived in every day of the world, and of our lives in the world.

Read more about Proclaiming The Lord’s Death and Ours
His renunciation of the empire as a kingdom of this world takes place not at Golgotha but at the very beginning. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Faith Honors God :: Throwback Thursday

Genesis 18.13-14
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Reflection: Faith Honors God :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther (Commentary on Galatians, 1535)

To believe in God as Abraham did is to be right with God because faith honors God. Faith says to God: “I believe what you say.”

Are you surprised that reason thinks little of faith? Reason thinks it ludicrous that faith should be the foremost service any person can render unto God. Let your faith supplant reason.

Abraham mastered reason by faith in the Word of God. Not as though reason ever yields meekly. It put up a fight against the faith of Abraham.

Reason protested that it was absurd to think that Sarah who was ninety years old and barren by nature, should give birth to a son. But faith won the victory and routed reason, that ugly beast and enemy of God.

Everyone who by faith slays reason, the world’s biggest monster, renders God a real service, a better service than the religions of all races and all the drudgery of meritorious monks can render.

Men fast, pray, watch, suffer. They intend to appease the wrath of God and to deserve God’s grace by their exertions. But there is no glory in it for God, because by their exertions these workers pronounce God an unmerciful slave driver, an unfaithful and angry Judge. They despise God, make a liar out of Him, snub Christ and all His benefits; in short they pull God from His throne and perch themselves on it.

Faith truly honors God. And because faith honors God, God counts faith for righteousness.

Christian righteousness is the confidence of the heart in God through Christ Jesus. Such confidence is accounted righteousness for Christ’s sake.

Two things make for Christian righteousness: Faith in Christ, which is a gift of God; and God’s acceptance of this imperfect faith of ours for perfect righteousness.

Because of my faith in Christ, God overlooks my distrust, the unwillingness of my spirit, my many other sins. Because the shadow of Christ’s wing covers me I have no fear that God will cover all my sins and take my imperfections for perfect righteousness.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. — Psalm 96.2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 18 (Listen – 4:59)
Matthew 17 (Listen – 3:46)

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Read more about Fasting According to our Lusts :: Throwback Thursday
These all seek in their fasting nothing beyond the work itself: when they have performed that, they think they have done a good work. — Martin Luther

Read more about Faith Requires Humility
One reason faith is so difficult for today’s culture is that we devalue humility. And faith cannot exist without humility.