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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When God moves mountains, big ones.

Liebe Leute!

So our destination this morning is the highest railway station in Switzerland and in Europe, some 3,454 metres above sea level. 

Yes, we are in Interlaken, all set for the Jungfrau Railway.  Even from our hotel in Wilderswil surrounded by snow - covered peaks, the view is spectacular 

Switzerland, of course, is synonymous with mountains, with some remarkable railway journeys.  I guess that’s the reason we’re here, having purchased a Swiss railway pass for our three days here in Interlaken.  


Today, of course, we love mountains.  I well remember how the Sound of Music captured the public’s imagination in the mid 1960’s.  And of course, there’s the immortal quote of mountaineer George Mallory of Mount Everest: "Because it is there."


It was the Brits who opened the door to tourism here in Switzerland at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.  First the poets, then the first intrepid mountaineers who climbed just for the fun of it, with the Alpine Club being founded in London in 1857, just one year before Thomas Cook’s first tour group. 


All this represented a huge shift in the way people viewed mountains.  Certainly for the locals no one would even consider climbing a mountain simply for pleasure.  They were wild and dangerous places, populated by spirits and hostile forces.  In these parts there was a fear of Bergmännchen.


However, mountains have a very special place in the Bible.  Just think of Mount Sinai (aka Horeb) where Moses received the ten commandments, Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, Mount Tabor where Jesus was transfigured, but especially Mount Zion where Jerusalem is situated.  


Beautiful in its loftiness,

    the joy of the whole earth,

like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,

    the city of the Great King.

(Psalm 48:2) 


Of course, Mount Zion is of huge importance in the scriptures – it is where heaven intersects with earth, it is where God dwells with his people.  It is where Jesus was crucified.  


So what’s so special about mountains?  Much depends on context, but there is a sense in the Bible that mountains are places where we may be closer to God.  

However, I can’t think that this is simply a result of their altitude, in some way being closer to the sky, the heavens above. Our Hebraist daughter agrees. She thinks mountains are liminal places, on the edge, where mere humans have no control. 


But this may be a cultural hangover from prehistory where there was an understanding of the cosmos as a three-part structure consisting of the heavens, the earth, and the dark spiritual places beneath the earth. 

Hence the Biblical stricture against pagan worship: “Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:2) 


However, mountain-tops are undoubtedly special.  Here there is a sense of isolation and the sheer openness of being on top of the world.  Here we may discern our own finitude and frailty in God’s vast creation.  

So it is where Jesus chooses to reveal himself to his three key disciples.  “After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:1). The ultimate mountain-top experience!  


But there again, mountains show total permanence, where we may discern our security in our relationship with God.  


Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,which cannot be shaken but endures forever.As the mountains surround Jerusalem,so the Lord surrounds his peopleboth now and forevermore.

(Psalm 125:1f).


Certainly here in Interlaken you get a sense of sheer permanence as you gaze on the surrounding peaks.  We can rejoice that God’s presence is unshakeable and immovable, “our rock and our redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14.)


And mountains - to state the obvious - are big, for when Jesus wants to illustrate the power of prayer, what picture does he use when teaching his disciples?  


“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them”. (Mark 11:23) 


However huge the problem, however daunting, however menacing, God can move that particular mountain.  And as Colin Urquart once pointed out, mountains don’t float.  So Jesus urges us to pray undaunted and undeterred: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (v24)


Looking at Mount Eiger just over there, that may take some believing.  But there again, we are talking about the God of heaven and earth. For as always it’s not great faith in God which moves mountains but faith in a great God!


“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  (Psalm 90:2). 


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