The reading for today’s Eucharist service comes from the Gospel of John (shockingly enough–we’ve been SOAKED in John for weeks now…welcome to Easter!). The passage is John 6:1-15, John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000.
However amazing that story is–and by all standards, Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 is pretty darn amazing–take a look, instead, at the bookend settings for this passage. In particular note verses 3 and 15. Verse 3: “Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.” Verse 15: “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (my emphasis).
Jesus is the model, the pattern for living a truly holy life (again, shocker), and one of the things that Jesus does quite frequently in the gospels is that he goes off alone (the wilderness, the mountains, etc.). Throughout the gospels Jesus seeks time apart for a variety of exercises: to be quiet, to escape from the crush of his earthly ministry, to regroup, to pray, to fast, to purify himself, but mostly to reconnect with God.
Jesus is not going on vacation, he is not going to his summer house or any place fancy, in fact he is going out away from others. Mountains have a special symbolic meaning in the Hebrew scriptures that would have rung some bells for the earliest Christians when Jesus goes up the mountain. Where does Moses go to receive the 10 commandments; where does the ark rest finally for a rain-soaked Noah; where does Abraham go to sacrifice Isaac; where does Elijah go to find God in the sheer silence? “Going up the mountain,” in the Hebrew scriptures, and for Jesus, means going up to be close with God.
For us today, especially us here in Washington D.C., we don’t always have access to a mountain to climb to be closer with God. However, we do have the ability to go and find our own quiet place, away from the bustle and crush of our lives to be still and silent and listen for God’s voice. For me one of those places is the weeping cherry tree in the Bishop’s Garden. Not more than a couple of miles from one of the most important and busiest cities on the planet is this small sanctuary of quiet and beauty. Where are these places for you? Where are these places where you can go and be quiet and still and recharge, regroup, be still and listen for God?
In the coming weeks see how you can take time to listen for God, to talk with God, or simply to be still and quiet on your own mountain. Finding time to be apart from the normal routine and business of our lives and be present to God is essential, even if only for five minutes.
A blessed Eastertide,