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DeacoNote 45: Lift Me Up Oh Lord

June 7, 2024


If you have been by our church (the United Church of Colchester) this week, you will notice a new addition to the parking lot. It is the first arrival of heavy equipment from Miles Jenness and the crew at Vermont Heavy Timber, as they prepare for an uplifting experience at the United Church of Colchester. It is a sure sign that the long planned work to restore our steeple is soon to begin.


Somehow it seemed appropriate that we have a lift in our church parking lot. After all, we do come to church for, among other things, an uplifting experience. In fact the contemporary singing group, The Afters, has a song out, entitled You Lift Me Up, proclaiming this very idea. If you are not familiar with it, the lyrics go ...

You lift me up when I am weak

Your arms wrap around me

Your love catches me so I'm letting go

You lift me up when I can't see

Your heart is all that I need

Your love carries me so I'm letting go


And the great fan of "Dad Jokes" that I am, I wondered if getting lifted up at the church on the hill, that we are, would elevate it to a mountain top experience? That would be nice, because the term "mountain top experience" in our culture at least has a Biblical origin and has come to mean a moment of significant revelation given by God, or a time of feeling especially close to God, or perhaps, like the disciples of Matthew 17: 1-13, an experience of seeing Jesus as never before.


Mountain tops give us a vantage point to see things from a perspective not always visible in the valley. God used them throughout the Bible to reveal truths to selected prophets and disciples. Moses received the ten commandments on the mountain and Jesus was transfigured on one. These experiences inspire awe, new knowledge, and unshakable faith.


Of course not all mountain top experiences occur on a physical mountain. I have (present tense) a friend who had one in a creek bed at the bottom of a mountain, instead on top of it. At the time he had a job as the driver of a propane truck making rural deliveries. On his way down the mountain, the brakes failed. Unable to stop or even slow down, he missed the turn at the bottom of the hill and rolled the truck into a creek bed. His encounter, enveloped in prayer, lasted only the few seconds from the moment the brakes failed to engage until the truck began to roll, but to my friend, it was a faith-affirming encounter he will never forget. He walked away from it unharmed.


It is times like this that we learn a lot about ourselves, but we also learn about God. One pastor commented that he thought most people of long term strong faith have at least one such mountain top experience. It may not be as dramatic as walking away from a propane truck crash, but it is a moment of revelation, where, for whatever reason, we came to know God in a way that transformed Him from a word, or a concept in a dusty book on the shelf, to a real living force in our daily lives.


Do you know God that way? Elijah had an encounter on the mountain.

I Kings 19: 11-13 The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.


Most of us do not experience God surrounded by wind, shaking rock, and fire. Rather our first encounters are in the Word. The first study Bible I bought as a new Christian was called The Open Bible. It contained a number of study aids, including what it called Christian Life Study Outlines. These outlines took a number of key subjects and then outlined key verses that dealt with those subjects. Buried down in Article III of Master Outline Number Two was the subject of The Nature Of God. It said that there was no complete definition of God, but that four verses shed some light on the subject:

I John 4: 8 God is love.

This it suggested is the nature of God in His divine compassion.

I John 1: 5 God is light.

This it suggested is the nature of God in His divine character: in Him there is no darkness.

Hebrews 12: 29 God is a consuming fire.

This it suggested is the nature of God in His divine holiness. It speaks to the unshakable power of God that is a little more evident if we quote the whole two verses in context: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.

John 4: 24 God is Spirit.

This it suggested is the nature of God in His divine essence. The full verse calls us to in turn worship Him in spirit and truth. This aspect of His reality shows up a number of times in Scripture. This is the Comforter (or Advocate) that will abide with us forever ( John 14: 16 ). It also helps us worship by praying for us ( Romans 8: 26 ), by teaching us the words of Christ ( John 14: 26 ), and reminds us that we are loved ( Romans 5: 5 ).


In my own walk with God, I came to believe that there was one more "God is" definition to be found in Scripture.

Judges 6: 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shalom is in turn generally translated God is Peace. If you read the rest of Judges you see that it clearly does not mean the absence of problems. Rather it means that we are at peace because we have whatever we need from God to weather life's storms. It is understanding this verse that gives a little more depth to a later verse in John.

John 20: 21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."


Wherever you find yourself - be it on a mountain top, a creek bed in the valley, or in a pew in the church on the hill, I pray you come to understand God as something more than a three-letter word in a book - I pray He lifts you up and becomes the living, acting, moving sustainer of your life


Amen


Please feel free to share this DeacoNote with a friend, or post a related thought in the Comments below.


Your Brother in Christ,

     Warren


Warren J. Ayer, Jr.

Chairperson, Board of Deacons

United Church of Colchester


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