Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moving Mountains

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus (Matthew 17:20)

We use ‘mountains’ as a metaphor for the difficulties we face in our lives, the things that we need to overcome or else they will overcome us. To those we think give up too easily, or exaggerate their problems, we say, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill!”

But in the ancient world, mountains symbolised encounters with a deity. The Greek gods lived on Mount Olympus. The Jewish god gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai; passed by Elijah on a mountainside; made Mount Zion his home on earth. Those stories of Jesus set on mountains make an unspoken statement about him: God is present with and in this man. The teaching given on the side of a hill known as the Sermon on the Mount says, this is the new Moses, the new law-giver. Jesus is transfigured, in the presence of those experienced old mountaineers Moses and Elijah, and rookies Peter, James and John, on a mountain top.

And so when Jesus says if you have faith you can move a mountain from here to there, he is not primarily concerned with the obstacle his disciples are facing. His is not simply speaking about what you can do – in this case, drive out a demon. He is speaking about how you do it: the focus of faith is not the obstacle, but God. To move a mountain from here to there is to transfer our experience of meeting God in one context to another context. To move a mountain from here to there is to say, I have known God provide in the past, so I can trust for his provision now, and it is in that light that I will act.

To meet with God on a mountain-top experience requires effort on our part. It is exhilarating, but exhausting too. But to go from mountaintop experience to mountaintop experience alone is to miss the point. We need transferable faith. Transferable faith transforms the everyday stuff of life in the valley of the shadow of death.

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