Monday, October 30, 2006

Walking to Church

When I was living back in the states I often made excuses why I should not go to Church on Sunday. Living in Florida, they were often related to the weather. It was either too hot, too cold, or too nice. Many of us have done this from time to time. We often take for granted the things that are easily accessible and don’t take much effort to obtain. I remember going to Guatemala a few years back and marveling that many of the people in the mountains walk miles to get to Church and do it faithfully. Oh and then of course, they have to walk back up the mountain after Church to get home, no buses or taxies there.

I remember at one of the medical clinics I worked at in Peru a ninety-year-old man came in to the clinic complaining that he got tired when he walked up the mountain in the afternoons. He said it never used to bother him until about a year ago. I tell you I walked half way up one of the mountains in Guatemala to visit a family that lived there and it almost killed me. I remember the mother of the family we were visiting had to stop many times to wait for the gringo. Well at least the trip down the mountain was not as bad as I slid down it mostly. No sidewalks -- you would think they would put in some sidewalks and maybe a few lights.

When I got back from Guatemala, I remember saying I would never miss Church for a lame excuse again after seeing how faithful these people were to get to Church. Unfortunately, I remembered saying it but I did not remember to do it. Once again I took going to Church for granted because it was so easy not to and the Church building wasn’t coming to me. I had put a mountain between the fellowship that the Church provides and me, a mountain that I too often refused to climb.

Fast forward to my arrival here where the nearest Church to my house on Sunday is, you guessed it down the mountain I live on. Now I grant you it is not as big of a mountain as they have in Peru or Guatemala but it is “My” mountain. There are three pictures, which show most of my walk. These are not three pictures of the same steps but each one is a segment that leads to its own landing where I am free to have a heart attack if I need to on the way up.

Now most of you, including me, well mostly me probably not you, are thinking that I have a perfect excuse not to go to Church on Sundays. Well at least I have the option of taking a taxi thus avoiding the mountain altogether. I have to be honest and tell you that this has crossed my mind now and again but I chose to walk down to Church every Sunday and of course back up afterward. That would be cheating if I did not walk up. There are stairs so I least I don’t fall down the mountain on the way to Church.

Why do I now choose to walk the mountain instead of taking the easy way out? For two reasons, the first reason is that it is not easy for some like me to walk the mountain. Believe me if there were an elevator, I would take it. Living here has reminded me that we often take for granted things that come easy. The things we have to work for and at are more meaningful to us and worth having. Walking to Church gives me a new appreciation about what it means to “suffer” for Christ. Now before some of you get on the “I walked to school up hill both ways in the driving snow backwards” soapbox, let me explain that I agree walking up and down a mountain to go to Church does not constitute suffering in the Biblical sense. However, it brings me to my second reason why I chose to climb the mountain to Church.

It reminds me that many people do “suffer” mountains to be able to go to Church. Many of the mountains that stand between Church and them are geographical such as in Peru or Guatemala, or physical such as the inaccessibility of the blind to find someone to drive them to Church. Mountains that stand between Church and us can also be religious intolerance and political mountains. Many people on this side of the world face discrimination or persecution for attending Church. They could lose a job or not get a promotion because they go to Church. Or not get a much-needed scholarship for their children to attend a decent school because they attend Church. Even lose their life or the lives of their loved ones. And don’t think it does not happen here, I recently had a friend “questioned” because he was seen often visiting the homes of “Foreigners”. But despite these almost seeming un-scalable mountains, many people chose to climb their mountain in obedience and love for Christ.

Rather makes my little hill insignificant in comparison but it does make for me a good reminder not to take Church and the fellowship it provides for granted. Perhaps one day God will ask me to climb a more difficult mountain, but until that time, I will continue to walk my little mountain if not in necessity then in remembrance of those whose mountains are much bigger.

Think about the mountain you place or is placed between the Church and you. Do you choose to climb it? Is it really a mountain or are you just making a mountain out of a molehill?

And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen.
(Mat 21:21 NASB emphasis mine)

Posted by LR

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