Good News from the Mountains

snow covered mountain during sunrise

As we continue through the Season of Creation, we join the mountains and hills in their praise to God.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev 4:11

Mountains are majestic and powerful. Hills offer nourishment and protection. Mountains and hills mirror their Creator and gives us insight into God whom we worship in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Power of Mountains

It has now been one week. The volcano in Canary Islands continues to erupt. Hundreds of people had to evacuate. Houses were destroyed. Livelihoods have been decimated.[i] Mountains are powerful.

The terror of fire and lava provide a picture of awe and beauty. That is Nature reflecting the holiness of God.

The holiness of God is something left unspoken in church pulpits today. As Western Civilization continues its decline into a syncretic embracing of pre-Christian religions, the Judaeo-Christian values that once nourished its peoples are dissipating. The void being created now slowly fills with the older Eastern Civilisation values.

Volcanoes remind us that God’s holiness purges. Quietly the volcano stands in the backdrop. It provides a sense of direction and certainty as we go about our daily lives.  And then, ever so often, it erupts. Each eruption is a reminder that our labour on Earth is temporary.

We must do that work which is of eternal value. Yes, we labour to support our family; but we also belong to the family of God. There is much work to do in God’s Kingdom. The mountains keep us grounded.

It is good to know we have a God who is holy. That means there is justice in our world.

The Majesty of Mountains

Living in New Zealand, we are privileged to enjoy majestic mountains. Taranaki, Ruapehu, Aoraki and the Southern Alps take our breath away at first sight.

I first visited New Zealand as a young man in my 20’s. I arrived in Auckland and then drove down the line. Once I reached Dunedin, I flew back over the country to Auckland before returning to America.

Coming from the flatlands of America’s Midwest, Auckland itself was a jolt to my vision. There seems to be no agreement as to just how many extinct volcanoes there are in New Zealand’s largest city.

Seeing Ruapehu for the first time was exciting. Snow-capped in the middle of a green island located in the South Pacific was mind-blowing to this son of an American farmer.

Crossing the Cook Strait, I drove off the ferry and entered a fairy-like land. The further South I drove, the more majestic Southern Alps became. And then finally, I reached Aoraki/Mt Cook. There were no words to describe the initial experience.

Flying back to Auckland, I was stunned to see Taranaki sitting as a king with the Sea as its backdrop. I returned to America a changed man. I returned within 6 months to New Zealand and have lived here ever since.

Mountains stan tall into the skies. Silently they invite our gaze to look up into the heavens. And when we do, we stop in admiration. They mirror their Creator. They remind us that God is King.

One day Christ will return to Earth and bring God’s kingdom with him. When that happens, the majesty we now admire will pale in comparison. It is good to know we serve the eternal King of glory.

The Protection of Hills

Today’s theme is Good News from the Mountains. Power and majesty may not sound like good news to some; but they give us the ability to proclaim God’s goodness.

The goodness of God is manifested by the protection hills give us.

National Geographic defines a hill as “a piece of land that rises higher than everything surrounding it. Since they are higher than everything around them, hills are good places to get a nice view.”[ii]

School children used to be taught that hills have a summit that is less than 1,000 feet and if a summit was above that level, the hill became a mountain. Today, that distinction is no longer taught.

What both hills and mountains provide us is a place to build our towns and villages to avoid flooding in the valleys and low-lying areas next to the sea.

Hills also have been used to build cities upon to detect enemy invasion. Ancient Rome is the classic example: “the city built on seven hills”. Closer to home, however, offers better examples. Maori also wisely built their Pas at higher elevation to offer protection of its resources.

Hills offer us protection. They bring the good news of their Creator’s protection.

The Bible is full of mountains and hills.

  • Ararat was the collector of Noah’s Ark, God’s covenant promise;
  • Horeb was the giver of Moses’ 10 Commandments, God’s written covenant;
  • Carmel was the displayer of Elijah’s Fire, God’s holy reminder; and of course
  • Calvary was the host of Christ’s cross, God’s new covenant.

The good news from the hills is that God has a covenant relationship with God’s people. It is in writing and sealed in blood. It gives us hope and purpose as we live and work in this world.

The Nourishment of Hills

That leads us into my final point: there is good news from the mountains as they illustrate divine nourishment.

While we were preparing for this service, there was some humour shared around Alan’s lines in the Call to Worship. Did you hear Alan refer to the magic mushrooms?

We can all have a chuckle about the implications. But I included that in the opening because I know no better word than to describe the image.

Entoloma hochstetteri is a species of mushroom found in New Zealand, Brazil and India. The small mushroom is a distinctive all-blue colour, while the gills have a slight reddish tint from the spores. It is not edible, but whether or not it is poisonous is unknown.[iii]

How else can you describe this other than magical? New Zealand’s dull green landscape illuminated by bright blue mushrooms is fantastical! It reminds me of the mystical nature of our relationship with God. We worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Although the Blue Mushroom may be inedible, the hills provide us much nourishment. Sheep can graze as well as cattle in the hills. They provide us meat, milk, and clothing. We are literally nourished by the hills.

And so too are we nourished by God’s provision of spiritual food, drink, and clothing.

Do Not Worry

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”

For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34

[i] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58683718

[ii] https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/hill/

[iii] https://www.citscihub.nz/Phil_Bendle_Collection:Entoloma_hochstetteri_(Blue_mushroom)

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

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