...For though the mountains should depart
And the hills be removed,
Yet my love and kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,'
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:10).
I went to Rio De Janeiro one time. The city is defined by the mountain called the sugar loaf that dominates it and the big 'Jesus' statue on the high hill that seems to watch over all below. It is these two landmarks that make Rio so instantly recognisable in the movies. We took a tour up to the redeemer statue. I was all set for a dramatic spiritual encounter but it was somewhat spoiled by our tour guide.
A lady who appeared to be the Brazilian reincarnation or Heinrich Himmler. She bellowed strict orders to our small party in staccato bursts. "You will go up to the top and then you will get to spend FIVE MINUTES with the Jesus. Then immediately back to souvenir shop. If you aren’t back from the Jesus on time we will leave without you. It’s a long walk down the mountain!"
The Jesus was just made of stone and I didn’t get my spiritual encounter.
While we were there we also took a cable car up the sugar loaf mountain which I think I remember being nice. My main recollection is of having to stop every 23 seconds in order to pose for photos at the command of my wife.
Towns and cities that are near mountains and hills find their sense of place and identity from them. It becomes the city on such and such a hill or the town at the bottom of a certain mountain. Very easy to navigate with such an unmissable reference point defining the horizon for miles around. You always know exactly where you are in relation to everything that matters.
But in the verses above God is saying that; even if our sense of place and identity is radically shaken; His kindness and peace can become the landmarks that we navigate by. Although everything we ever orientated our lives by is removed and we are left not knowing our way home; God’s kindness and peace can become our constant. Our point of reference from which to navigate, that never moves and which dominates the horizon of our lives.
As I write this, the nations are in the grip of COVID-19 and many of peoples personal geography is shifting dangerously. The mountains and hills of peoples certainty and identity appear to be being moved. No one is quite sure what is waiting for us on the other side of the pandemic in terms of economic recovery. But as followers of Jesus we can choose not to be afraid. We can choose to go up his mountain with clean hands and a pure heart. To see His kindness and His covenant of peace in our every day lives.
And we get to spend much more than just five minutes with 'the Jesus' at the top!