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Peaks and Valleys

Scout Sunday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Relating mountains and valleys to Scout experiences

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You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
John Muir:
John Muir:
Yosemite: by far the grandest of all the special temples of nature I was ever permitted to enter.
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail.
Wow. To have a “mountain top experience.” Nature’s peace, fresh wind, scenic view, filled with energy, cares falling like autumn leaves.
However, life is not always a “MTE.” There are plenty of low moments. In student organizations we talk about sharing “pits and cherries” or “pows and wows.” That’s a realistic picture of how life really works. Cherry/pit, Rose/thorn. The highs and lows are often embedded and intertwined, experienced in compressed moments in the daily flow of normal life.
What are some strategies to tackle the highs and lows?
What are some great mountains in scripture?
Take a buddy: Yosemite experience with Ray!
What are some great mountains in scripture?
Mt. Moriah: . Place of testing of the man of great faith--Abraham who lead his only son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him.
7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Yet when the reached the place, Abraham bound his son and reached for the knife, and God called out “Abraham, Abraham!”
And there are other mountain top experiences like Mt. Sinai
Mt Sinai: . Place where God said: 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
So those are just a couple examples in scripture of sacred geography. The mountain is a place of testing and rewarded faith.The mountain is a place of great victory, where God’s enemies are thwarted, where God’s faithfulness to his promises are shown. It’s a place where God dwells and commands. When Moses comes down from the Mountain he has to wear a veil because his face was radiant and frightened the Israelites.
In our lives too, the mountaintop is a destination, a moment to take beautiful photos and look out in triumph. Hiked to Nevada Falls. 2,500 ft. climb. Spent some time looking out and reveling in what I had accomplished. But you don’t live there, don’t spend lots of time there.
On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay the first to climb Mount Everest, spent only about 15 minutes on the summit which is only the size of a small room.
So in life anyway, the peak of the mountain seems like a small geographical area compared to a long, broad, low valley. The space to celebrate your accomplishments seems limited in time and size compared to everyday life in the valley.
Valleys in scripture:
Valley of Eshkol,
Moses sent some men to spy out the land of Canaan. Check it out. Who lives there? Do they lives in towns? Fortified cities? What’s the soil like?
When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there
It’s a great land! Flowing with milk and honey! Awesome fruit! Check out these grapes! And Caleb said let’s go for it! But some of the men that spied out the land said, “oh no! The people are too strong, the land devours all who explore it. We can’t do it.
Then all the people complained and grumbled. “If only we had died in Egypt”! Let’s choose a new leader. Let’s go back to Egypt! God gets pretty mad about all of this, but Moses and Aaron plead for God to relent and he does. But in :
Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.
Valley of Achor:
The Lord wins a stunning victory in Jericho, and moves on to the little city of AI. Sends some spies who return saying, “piece of cake.” Don’t even send the whole army. Just a few people live there. But the men of AI routed the Israelites, and the people’s hearts melted in fear. The Israelite leaders discovered that there had been disobedience among God’s people and this is why they were defeated.
Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor[f] ever since. Achor means “trouble.”
Valley of Trouble.
So some valleys in scripture are witness to idol worship, pagan gods, foreign religion, sin, disobedience, faithlessness, complaining/grumbling against God, God’s anger.
In contrast with the MTE, we seem to spend quite a lot of time in the valley. It’s a low place, a place of struggle. Sometimes it seems hard to climb out of the valley. We look up at those great mountains and wish we were up there on top. On top of El Capitan, or Half Dome, or Glacier Point or Mt. Whitney.
Maybe you’re here today sort of stuck in a valley. Maybe you’re feeling a little more affinity with some of the stories of the valley we read than the mountain stories. Feeling a little lower than higher.
Even though our lives seemed mostly lived in the valley--places of daily routine, sometimes painful places of conflict and weariness, striving to live with others that we don’t always get along with, struggling with health or finances. We can recall our mountaintop experiences, and the joys of reaching the heights. Don’t forget that reaching the mountaintop takes struggle, some pain and patience, and that there is often a price to pay to reach the heights.
John Muir:
Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.
Muir claims that in one mountain day we find riches of a lifetime.
Take a buddy:
Take a buddy:
Tenderfoot requirement #5a:
Explain the importance of the buddy system as it relates to your personal safety on outings and in your neighborhood. Use the buddy system while on a troop or patrol outing. From the very beginnings of their Scout careers, Scouts are taught that it’s important to walk the Scout trail with a buddy.
Backpacking in Sespe Creek by myself seeing a bear vs. seeing a bear with Ray
As you stand on life’s highest peaks, those views are better with your buddy. And as you walk through lives lowest valleys, those dark moments can be better endured with the help of a buddy.
So who’s your buddy? Who do you share this life and all its peaks and valleys with? : Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Life is better together. Life is better when we have someone to share joys, triumphs, struggles and pain. Ever have any of that? Struggle and pain? Of course we all do but sometimes we act like we don’t. “I’m fine.” The Christian life is a live lived in community, so church folks need to get past “I’m fine” and invest in some life-sharing relationships.
Be prepared:

Ecclesiastes 4:12

12 Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

For what? For anything. For life. There is a list called the “Ten essentials” that Scouts should have on pretty much any outing. It actually varies depending on where you find it, but it’s the basics of camping: First aid kit, hat, water bottle, sunscreen, knife, extra food, etc. You always need that stuff.

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

A big part of growth in Scouting is being ready for whatever the elements are going to bring. It’s always going to be too hot, too cold, windy, buggy, rainy (or not). How are you going to make yourself comfortable in the outdoors? Is your sleeping bag warm enough? Oh you forgot an extra pair of socks? No can opener huh? Scoutmasters can’t be wimps when Scouts aren’t prepared. We’re not their mommies. Mommies want to fix everything. Make it better. Come to the rescue. But unless a boy feels some hunger or cold or gets a sunburn or a blister, he’s not going to learn how to deal with the adversities of life.
The church needs to be prepared also.
1 Peter 3:15 NIV
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1 Peter 3:13–15 NIV
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Apparently Peter is speaking to a church with some detractors, maybe persecutors. Don’t fear, do right, honor Christ. And be prepared. For what? To have answers. to answer the detractors, doubters, the haters. Or the seekers: hey why do you believe that? why do you do that? why do you think that way, live like that? The church ought to have some answers for our angst-ridden, politically divided, hostile world. Oh maybe you and I aren’t going to solve every global crisis or political stand off. In fact, politics don’t interest me all that much, and I get overwhelmed by many of the global crises we seem to be facing. But I know as the Scoutmaster of the best Scout Troop in the Conejo Valley, that I want to lend a hand to my neighbor, that I want to model a way of life that is filled with integrity, honesty, care and grace for those in my charge. I know I want my faith to be real and exemplary, so that when I get a chance when that person says, “hey what’s the reason for your hope”? I might have a good answer.
So maybe you’re not going to have all the answers for the world’s biggest problems, but what about this neighborhood right here? Your neighbors at home, your work colleagues. Does the church matter any more? Is it relevant? Does it have the answers people are looking for? I think we have some pretty good answers. But notice further what Peter says, “with gentleness and respect.” People are tired of being judged and criticized by phony, hypocritical religious folks aren’t they? But when the church always finds itself prepared and ready with real solutions to a hurting world, and can speak and act in a humble, gentle, respectful manner, people won’t be able to get enough of that.
OK, I’m doing preaching.
Something important here in this church that it has a legacy of sponsoring great outreach programs in this community. That for going on 55 years, you have supported adults leaders and young men by providing them an opportunity to go out into the wild. Yes, to play and explore but also to learn some important life lessons as they navigate life’s peaks and valleys: Bring a buddy and always be prepared. (Probably need to elaborate more here and get a solid wrap up/ending)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
David said that even in the deepest, darkest valley God is always with us.
We can remember the words of Jesus spoken from a mountain, that place of high and lofty grandeur the place where God dwells:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Just sayin:
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
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