Christ of the Mountains: a reflection by Susan Caldwell
How can we bring a fresh look at God and our faith into the New Year? How can we begin again with the passion we once had just like the first time we heard the Good News? We were forgiven. I remember when I first heard the Gospel message in a clear way that changed the course of my thinking and the course of my life for that matter. Bear with me, as I am sure I have shared this story with you in the past!
It was in January of 1977 and I was exuberant seventh grader looking forward to the adventure of going to Forest Home Christian Conference Center in San Bernardino Mountains for Youth Camp. Our youth group of some twenty persons, kids, college age youth counselors and one youth minister all piled into a travel bus and headed for the mountains.
The camp at Forest Home is actually more at the base of the San Bernardino Mountain alongside a river in Forest Falls before one travels on Highway 38 all the way up to Big Bear Lake. The ski resorts and tourist area are another good hour’s drive on the highway which has sweeping switch backs and scenic vistas. (Later on, in my life, when I lived in Big Bear, I can account for two of my car engines burning up and being stranded on that incline up to elevation 7,000 feet! But I digress.)
My hope in seventh grade was to be with my friends and enjoy the new fallen snow. For after all, what Southern California youth doesn’t look forward to experiencing the joys of snow! And wearing mittens when it really matters. I came down from that mountain top experience in January with something more than I had expected. The concept of salvation. I had the Gospel message preached to me by a Pastor Tim who was on staff at Forest Home. I remembered the January night well as it was cold and snowy. All the campers trudged over to Hormel Hall for the evening meeting, a very large wooden building that had glass windows. These windows were all steamed and fogged up as the many campers sang Christian camp songs. The three guitar players made for a very youthful concert. For that is what they do at youth camps, teach and preach and sing, eat lots of food in the substantial dining hall and play games. As many of my peers threw snowballs and chased each other on the slippery paths after the meeting, I reflected on the message that had been presented. What it meant to have salvation from my sins and good landing place at the end of my life, a place called heaven because Jesus welcomed all to enter in who believed in his name. And this acceptance and acknowledgment I could do, because it made sense to me, the gospel message. The One who died for all which included me. That death and resurrection that took place some two thousand years before I was born. The grand scope of salvation in Jesus for all humankind. Later again in my life when I would travel the Appian Way with my family outside Rome, Italy to see the Catacombs and look upon the early Christian inscriptions of the hidden and underground churches-I would think about this commonality that we shared. I thought about my faith decision and how I joined in the journey of the Saints. Those early Christians who wrote on the sepulcher walls and who perhaps went on to die for their faith.
1977 has long since passed and 2020 is now here. I have been thinking about my 43 years of faith journey. How I can remain happy and content at heart as well as continue with a faith as fresh and vital as new fallen snow. My conclusion and ponderance has taken me back to the Bible. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and of prayer.” This is what gospel writer Luke writes in the book of Acts, Chapter Two. The simple basics of church life can help with the renewing and steadfastness of soul maintenance. Don’t get me wrong, mountain top experiences have their place! And life altering and dramatic events can do their melding on the human psyche. But for duration’s sake, for me, knowing God is very simple. Prayer, study and community. This mindfulness marathon is once again what I hope to wrangle about in Christian Education in the coming year. The telling and retelling of the Sacred Story, the Holy Family, the history of the Jewish peoples and the coming of Jesus to bring us into the modern age. Joachim Neander, a 17th century German minister, teacher and hymn writer in his most famous hymn, Praise to the Lord, The Almighty, King of Creation, in this third stanza writes,
What the Almighty can do,
Who with His love doth befriend thee
May we all “ponder anew” what the Almighty can do in 2020! And be a friend of God. The God who made the mountains and the oceans. The God who has mercy on the human condition and is devoted to giving His beloved Church peace. ♰
By Susan Caldwell,
Minister of Christian Education