Although there are many more mountains mentioned in the Bible, this will be my last article on the subject. This does not mean that the others are less important but rather there is less information about them or they have become lost over time. Mount Zion, on the other hand, has three different locations.
Traditionally, Mount Zion is a hill in Jerusalem just outside of the Old City. Also known as Har Tsiyyon (Hebrew) and Jabal Sahyoun, it reaches a height of 2,510 feet and belongs to the Judean mountain range. The term “Zion” was first used in the Hebrew Bible as another name for the City of David and later used as an alternative name for Temple Mount.
It is not certain what the term “Zion” means, however, some scholars suggest it is similar to the Hebrew word for castle. This may help to explain why the location of Mount Zion has moved. Rather than being a physical mountain, Mount Zion is a time-honoured name for the focal point of Jerusalem, which shifts to the most appropriate place at the given time. For example, the first Mount Zion was the Jebusite city on the lower section of Jerusalem’s Eastern Hill, also known as the City of David. When the First Temple was erected on the top of the Eastern Hill, which is generally known as Temple Mount, the name Mount Zion migrated there too. The references to Mount Zion in the Book of Psalms are believed to be about this location:
Today’s Mount Zion is located on the Western Hill of Jerusalem, which the Jerusalemites have deemed a worthier location for the lost Palace of King David since the first century AD. Nebuchadnezzar II had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC, which eradicated a lot of historical memories. Although the city was rebuilt to the best of everyone’s abilities, the Romans destroyed it again in 70 AD. By now, no one could identify where the original Mount Zion had been (the locations have been discovered by archaeologists in more recent years), however, the historian Josephus wrote that he believed the location to be on the Western Hill since they were higher and longer than the Eastern.
After the Roman period of rule had ended, a synagogue was built at the entrance to what was believed to be David’s Tomb, where he may have brought the Ark of the Covenant before the construction of the First Temple.
There is, however, a fourth unknown location of Mount Zion. In the Bible, particularly in the books of Isaiah and Revelation, Mount Zion represents the Kingdom of God: the heavenly Jerusalem.
Apart from the modern landscape of the present-day mountain and Table Mount (see the article on Mount Moriah), there is little else known about Mount Zion. Since 1967, the mountain/hill has belonged to Israel and in 1964 a winding path leading up to Mount Zion was paved in honour of a visit from Pope Paul VI.
There are a handful of important sites for pilgrims and religious communities on Mount Zion including the Abbey of the Dormition, the aforementioned King David’s Tomb, and the Room of the Last Supper. Despite its name, archaeologists do not believe David’s Tomb to be his actual burial place, although some people treat it in this manner. Likewise, the Room of the Last Supper may not be the actual location of the Passover meal and some archaeologists believe the building may have once been a synagogue. Nonetheless, Christians treat the site as the Cenacle or Upper Room mentioned in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. As well as the Last Supper, it is thought that other events from the New Testament took place here. These include Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (Luke 2), the appearance of Jesus to the disciples after the resurrection (Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20), the gathering of the disciples after the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1), the election of Matthias as an apostle (Acts 1), and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).
The first museum opened in memory of the Holocaust can be found on Mount Zion. The Ministry of Religion inaugurated the Chamber of the Holocaust on 30th December 1949. Whilst small and cave-like, the museum contains ten rooms and many passages on which tombstone-like plaques record the 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust.
Two Christian cemeteries can be found on Mount Zion, one Catholic and one Protestant. A handful of notable names can be found here, for example, Oskar Schindler, a “Righteous General” who saved the lives of 1200 Jews during the Holocaust. The Protestant cemetery is also the resting place of many soldiers who fought in the First World War and people killed in the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946.
I hope these studies about the important mountains in the Bible have been useful. They should help you to place and visualise many Biblical locations and help you make sense of some of the event in the Old and New Testaments. There are, of course, many more mountains that you could explore, so, just for fun here is a list of some of the other mountains listed in the Bible. If you are interested, perhaps you could look them up and see what you can find out.
Luke 19:1-10: Luke 19:1–10 (NKJV): 1Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
8Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
It would also be useful for you to read Luke 18:18-25, which is the story of a rich man wanting to know how to achieve eternal life and Jesus' response telling him to sell everything he owned. Other background references are: Ezekiel 34:16, Exodus 22:1, Leviticus 6:5
This story or pericope is so famous that perhaps we miss how radical Jesus' actions were. Also, I am aware that it is probably one of the most well-known stories and so, I aim to offer you a new reflection, which will cast light upon the reading as well as help us in our daily living.
The scene is set in Jericho, which is twelve miles northeast of Jerusalem. It was the scene of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the place a blind beggar was healed (Matthew 20:29). It is located in the Jordan Valley and is believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, founded in 9600 BCE. It has one of the oldest protective walls and is the lowest city in the world at 846 feet below sea level. It is on the main trading route and the area has a flourishing agricultural industry, as well as being the main producer of balsam.
Jericho has had a chequered history; with the first permanent settlement in 9600 BCE, it was continually occupied throughout the Bronze Age but was later destroyed. It flourished once again and by 7th century BCE, Jericho had become a big town, but this was also destroyed following the Babylonian conquest of Judah in around 586 BCE. Whilst the Persians rebuilt the city, it came under the rule of Alexander the Great between 336 and 323 BCE and was subsequently controlled by Syria who strengthened the defensive walls. Mark Antony gave the royal estate at Jericho to Cleopatra in around 25 BCE and, following the Roman oppression, granted Herod absolute rule over Jericho. Herod built a royal palace, hippodrome and theatre, thus establishing Jericho as a major city. The roads were treelined with sycamore-fig trees, which had sprawling, low-level branches offering shade and a food resource.
This is the setting for one of the most famous stories in the Bible. When the Roman empire expanded it began to tax the population to help pay for the very army that was oppressing them together with sending money back to Rome. The Roman authorities knew how much money they wanted to receive from each area but allowed tax collectors to bid for how much they were willing to raise for the taxes and take a margin for their benefit. The taxes were hated by the populous and the collectors were even more hated because they were squeezing as much money as possible for their own gain. Zacchaeus was a Jew and he was seen as a betrayer of his people by being a tax collector and was hated accordingly. He would have been barred from the synagogue and would not have had many friends.
There is a song I learnt at Sunday School that went something like this:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see
And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree
And said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I'm going to your house for tea!
For I'm going to your house for tea!'
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
But a happy man was he
For he had seen the Lord that day
And a happy man was he;
And a very happy man was he
My suggestion is that because he was short he probably, throughout his schooling and young adulthood, would have been teased incessantly. I wonder if becoming a tax collector was his way of seeking revenge on his tormentors. I believe the name Zacchaeus is the Hebrew for pure/innocent. No doubt when he was born, given such a lovely name, he was probably well-loved but because of society's incessant need to label people and to bully, Zacchaeus became the product of all that nastiness. So motivated was he for revenge that he became not just a tax collector but a chief tax collector. He no doubt enjoyed the "respect" of the citizens but he was not happy.
There must have been a time when he realised he was lost; it is only when you realise you lost that you seek to find a different direction. He was fortunate a window of opportunity was to come when Jesus walked through Jericho. Being a "wee little man" he would have had trouble seeing Jesus through the crowds, so was willing to put dignity to one side and climb the sycamore-fig tree, one presumes not wishing to be seen as he did have a position to uphold. There is an element of risk-reward: is the risk of being spotted and looking silly overshadowed by the reward of hearing what Jesus was saying?
Yet, Jesus stops and calls him by name. An unanswered question is how did Jesus know Zacchaeus' name? How did Jesus know he was up a tree? In the only recorded account, Jesus invites himself for a meal and Zacchaeus takes this window of opportunity. He has a personal encounter with Jesus and, as with all personal encounters, the effect is life-transforming. Here we have a man who wanted to change and not just repented in words but repented in action, giving half his possessions to the poor as well as recompensing anyone with whom he had defrauded, paying them four times as much. Jesus offers him salvation, he needed no longer to be separated from God and his status as a Son of Abraham is reinforced. There is a tradition that suggests Zacchaeus went on following Christ and became the first Bishop of Caesarea.
So, what can we learn from this amazing story? Are we lost? Do we need a new direction? Are there habits and routines that we have fallen into and feel so comfortable with that are stopping us from being close to God? What windows of opportunities are there that we can take?
Always consider the risk-reward ratio. People can change and, therefore, by labelling, we sometimes stunt their growth into their potential being. Never tease or bully because you never know the hurt you are causing or the revenge that may follow.
Now it is November, the nights are drawing in and so, remember, words from the Gospel of John Chapter 1, Verse 5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it.” That, in essence, is our faith. No matter how dark our lives may be, or the nights, the light of Jesus can never be extinguished, as long as we keep it alive.
Firework Night always reminds me of a sermon I once preached involving the question, “what type of firework we would be?” Are we like a Katherine Wheel, whizzing around making a lot of noise but not getting anywhere? Are we a Banger that just makes noise but doesn’t produce anything spectacular? Or perhaps we are a Roman Candle that shoots majestically into the air, producing an array of colour and beauty. Other ideas include Sparklers, easy to use and relatively friendly, but have to be managed with care, and Rockets, leaving a trail behind you wherever you go.
Ask yourself, if you were a firework, what type would you be? Why?
Whatever type of firework you are, remember that God can use you. Remember these words from John 8:12, “Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.”
Finally, we reach everyone’s favourite mountain in the Bible. Named after the olive groves that once grew there, the Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is one of three peaks on a mountain ridge adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a Jewish cemetery for at least 3000 years and contains approximately 150,000 graves; however, this is not what makes the mountain so famous for us. Several events took place here during the life of Jesus, thus making it a major site of pilgrimage and worship for Christians.
The ridge containing the Mount of Olives stretches 2.2 miles across the Kidron Valley, an area that the Bible refers to as the Valley of Josaphat. The Mount of Olives is the middle peak, rising to a height of 2684 feet. The other peaks are named Mount Scopus and the Mount of Corruption, which reach 2710 and 2451 feet respectively. The ridge is formed of sedimentary rocks, such as chalk and flint and is believed to have developed during the Late Cretaceous period – i.e. dinosaurs were still around.
The Mount of Olives is first mentioned in the Bible concerning King David’s flight from his third son, Absalom. After turning the people of Israel against his father, Absalom declared himself king and David decided to flee to safety on the other side of the Jordan River where he could make plans and prepare his troops for battle.
The second reference to the Mount of Olives can be found in the Book of Zechariah with an apocalyptic prophecy that God would stand upon the mountain, splitting it in two.
The New Testament frequently mentions the Mount of Olives, partly because it is on the route from Jerusalem to Bethany, the home of Lazarus. Matthew and Mark (and Luke, although this Gospel includes other references) record the same events almost verbatim in the New International Version of the Bible. Matthew 21:1-3 (Mark 11; Luke 19) records, ‘As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”’ This, as you will surely recognise, is the beginning of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, which is traditionally read on Palm Sunday. “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:37)
Matthew 24-25 (Mark 13; Luke 21), records the Mount of Olives as the place where Jesus warned his disciples about the eventual destruction of the Temple and signs of the end times. ‘As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"’ (Matthew 24:3) Jesus talks of wars and uprisings, earthquakes, famines and pestilence and encourages his disciples to remain strong. He tells them to watch out for people claiming to be the Messiah and not to fall for anything they say.
The message about the end times was only given to Jesus’ disciples and not to the public who came to hear him speak in the Temple. John 8:1 records that “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” at the end of the day where he could be alone, away from all the people asking him questions.
The last event involving the Mount of Olives in the Gospels is written in Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22. This is where Jesus was arrested having been betrayed by Judas. This, of course, is also written in the Gospel of John, however, John refers to the Kidron Valley rather than the mountain. The beginning of each of these chapters records the last supper, which ends “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) Luke 22:39 says, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him,” thus noting that it was not unusual for Jesus to be there. We all know what happened next.
The final time the Mount of Olives is mentioned in the Bible is in the Acts of the Apostles. In chapter one, Jesus is taken up into heaven. Acts 1:12 states, “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city,” thus confirming that the ascension occurred on the Mount of Olives. Whereas the prophecy in the Book of Zechariah makes the mountain important to the Jewish community, this final event is the biggest reason why the Mount of Olives has become a Christian pilgrimage site.
There is little significant history involving the Mount of Olives between Biblical times and the 20thcentury. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the mountain became under negotiation to allow people access to the holy sites. The Jordanian’s, however, did not allow this to fully happen, only letting non-Israeli Christians visit the mount. It was not until after the Six-Day War in 1967 that Jews had access to the cemetery, albeit in need of restoration. Unfortunately, the gravesite continues to be prone to vandalism.
The cemetery is not the only thing the Mount of Olives has to offer. I have discovered a list of landmarks and just for fun I shall list a few:
Mount Moriah is famously remembered as the location of the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. ‘Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love--Isaac--and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”’ (Genesis 22:2) God asked Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son, however, upon the mountain, God told Abraham to stop. The knowledge that Abraham would have gone through with the command was enough for God to determine the strength of the patriarch’s faith.
Despite being such a famous event, the name “Mount Moriah” is only mentioned once more in the Bible. This occurs in the Second Book of Chronicles. “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David.” This verse tells us that the mountain has appeared more than once previously, however, it was not necessarily named. Here, Solomon built the first temple of the Lord and, since then, the mountain has been known as Table Mount.
“In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.” Micah 4:1
To modern-day Jews, Table Mount is also called Mount of the House and for Muslims, the Noble Sanctuary. Despite being referred to as a mountain, Table Mount is a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem. It rises approximately 2428 feet above sea level and in 19 BC was artificially widened by Herod the Great, resulting in a flat expanse on the summit that covers an area of 37 acres.
As well as the two mentions of Mount Moriah in the Hebrew Bible, Temple Mount has been the location of many historical and religious events. In Judaism, Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world and it is believed God’s divine presence has manifested there more than anywhere else. According to the Talmud, it was on this hill that God gathered the dust he used to create Adam, the first human. Some rabbis believe it is also the spot from which God created the world.
The Sacrifice of Isaac was the first significant event to take place on Mount Moriah/Temple Mount after the creation. Some also believe it was the location of Jacob’s dream and the place where King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite. David had plans to build a sanctuary on the hill but it was his son Solomon who achieved this in 950 BC.
Solomon’s temple is now referred to as the First Temple; however, there is no archaeological evidence for its existence on Temple Mount. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed this temple in 586 BC and the Second Temple was constructed in 516 BC. The Roman emperor Titus destroyed the new building in 70 AD and, by the 2nd Century, the site was being used as a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus – a group of three deities comprised of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Jewish texts predict a third and final temple will be built on the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
The Temple gradually became less important during the early Christian period, although paintings of the circumcision of Jesus are frequently depicted as taking place there. Of course, none of these painters knew what the Temple looked like and there is no written evidence of the ceremony taking place there in the Gospels.
In Islam, Temple Mount is the third holiest site. The “Noble Sanctuary” is the location of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. The Quran considered Temple Mount to be the site of the Temple built by the Islamic prophet Sulayman. Many prophets of Islam are believed to have worshipped there, including Jesus.
It is thought that the hill has been inhabited since the 4000 BC and from around 1850 BC it was home to the Canaanites. The Romans built the city of Aelia Capitolina on the hill in 130 AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. Initially, Hadrian had intended to gift the city to the Jews, however, after the construction of the Temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, the Jews were horrified by the idolatrous city. Hadrian went on to issue a decree prohibiting circumcision and encouraged Roman rites involving the sacrifice of pigs. Enraged by these practices, the Jews led a revolt, however, they were defeated and forbidden on pain of death to enter the city.
Emperor Constantine I, the first Christian Emperor, demolished the Temple to Jupiter Capitolinus and invited the Jews to rebuild their Temple. Supposedly, while the Jews were clearing the area, an earthquake damaged all their progress and the construction was abandoned. Archaeological evidence suggests another temple or religious building was built during the Byzantine period, however, there is very little knowledge of this.
The Jews finally gained back control of Jerusalem and Temple Mount in 610 AD when the Sassanid Empire, or Empire of Iranians, pushed the Byzantine Empire out. For five years, the Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth let the Jews practice their ceremonies and permitted them to rebuild the Temple. Unfortunately, the Byzantines took the area back in 615 AD and Christians replaced the Jews. Since then, Temple Mount has changed hands many times. It became a Muslim city when the Arabs defeated the second Byzantine Empire in 637. The Crusaders temporarily reintroduced Christianity from 1099 until 1187 and from the Ottoman period until the 19thcentury, non-Muslims were forbidden from setting foot on Temple Mount.
After the Six-Day War in 1967, Jerusalem and Temple Mount have been under Israeli control. Initially, Jews had the right to visit the area unobstructed and free of charge as long as they respected the religious beliefs of the Muslims living there. Since then, rules have changed and Jews are no longer allowed to pray on the mount. New rules dictate that:
From Biblical times to the present day, Mount Moriah/Temple Mount has seen many significant events and wars. It has been home to three different religions and currently contains constructions or the remains of buildings from each. Just for fun, I have researched what you may find there:
I was recently taken to lunch at a rather nice restaurant in Brentwood. The company was excellent, the food, and if wanted wine, looked delicious but the venue was quite a surprise because I had been taken to The Beeches care home.
I must say, I did rather feel that when the time comes, this is the home where I would like to live. Sommer Turner, the client liaison manager, showed me around. The foyer would not have been out of place in a Five Star hotel. There were restaurants and cafes and I even came across a cinema in the facilities. There were a variety of rooms and at least six activities per day to keep residents stimulated and interested. Activities range from Scrabble and quizzes to dancing, gardening and Saturday Night at the Movies. Art groups were available as well as regular staff and resident socials. There were also opportunities to go into Brentwood on weekly organised trips.
As a minister, I am asked if I could recommend any care homes and from this introduction I received, I would certainly suggest considering The Beeches. It is a Signature Home and the website is www.signature-care-homes.co.uk. It is in Herbert Road off London Road in Brentwood, Essex CM14 4NA
Mount Tabor is located in Lower Galilee, Israel, approximately eleven miles from the Sea of Galilee. It is sphere-shaped and reaches a height of 1,886 feet above sea level and 1476 feet above the nearest town, Kfar Tavor. It is known as a monadnock mountain, which means it is an isolated mountain rising from a flat plain.
Mount Tabor is mentioned for the first time in Joshua 19:22: “the boundary also touches Tabor, Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh, and its boundary ends at the Jordan—sixteen towns with their villages.” Whilst it is only a brief mention, it helps us understand where the mountain was in relation to Biblical lands. Mount Tabor is located in the northwest section of the Jezreel Plain on the border of the Naphtali and Zebulon lands.
The next time Mount Tabor is mentioned is in the Book of Judges:
Whilst Barak and the Israelites marched to Mount Tabor, the Canaanites were struggling through a muddy terrain after a downpour. The chariots were rendered useless and the soldiers were too slow to escape from the Israelites’ attack. All of the Canaanites bar Sisera were slain but the commander soon met his fate in the tent of Yael the Kenite who killed him with a tent peg to the head.
Mount Tabor became the site of another battle in 55 BC when the Hasmonean dynasty rebelled against Alexander Maccabeus of Judaea. Over 10,000 Jews were killed during the battle and Alexander was forced to flee to Syria. Later, in 66 AD, Mount Tabor became one of the 19 fortified sites during the First Jewish-Roman War.
Battles are not the only thing for which Mount Tabor is famous. Although not mentioned by name, Christian writers believe Mount Tabor to be the location of the transfiguration of Jesus.
During the Crusades of the 11th, 12thand 13thcenturies Mount Tabor’s ownership changed hands many times between the Muslims and the Christians. When the Crusaders were in charge, the Benedictine monks erected a fortified abbey, however, this was later destroyed under Muslim rule and replaced with a fortress.
Another “Battle of Mount Tabor” took place in 1799 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1769-1821) Syrian expedition. The French army, which only consisted of 3000 men, fought against the 35,000 strong Ottoman Empire and won.
Today, a Bedouin tribe who are famous for being hospitable and friendly to visitors and pilgrims occupies the mountain. Each year, a 12-kilometre race is held around Mount Tabor and the mountain is also one of the most popular locations for hang gliding in the country.
One of the most popular visitor attractions is the Church of Transfiguration, which was built on the peak of Mount Tabor by the Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order in the 1920s. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, used the ruins of buildings built during the crusades as the foundations of the church. The structure consists of three naves, two bell towers and two chapels. Whilst the church was built in honour of Jesus, the chapels are dedicated to Moses and Elijah.
Until the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Mount Tabor was completely covered in trees and plants. Most of these were cut down to make room for buildings or to be used by the charcoal industry. Fortunately, the Jewish National Fund reforested the mountain with trees during the 60s and 70s and Mount Tabor once more flourishes with greenery. Over 400 plant species have been recorded on the mountain, including various oak trees, crocuses, lilies, tulips, orchids and irises.
Due to the range of plants, Mount Tabor has become a suitable habit for many animals. Just for fun, here is a list of a few you may find there:
On Saturday 19th October, I attended a day's course with the Association of Christian Writers under the heading Writing, Singing and Whole Life Worship. The speakers were Sam and Sara Hargreaves who are hymn writers amongst other things.
It was a fascinating day where we learnt how they write hymns and lead worship. They took a piece of scripture and invited us to engage with the text in the form of poetry, paraphrasing, being interactive, using it as a basis for prayer, and guided meditation. Those various disciplines started to unlock the scripture in interesting ways.
They went on to tell us the five stages they use when writing songs, which were:
One of the key ideas was to write hymns "into the gaps". Whereas there are many Harvest, Easter and Christmas hymns, there are not many on ecology, infant baptism, and God in everyday life. If you wished your hymns to be used, by writing "into the gaps" they were more likely to be sung at a service.
The final session of whole-life worship reminded us that God is not just for Sunday and the gathered church on a Sunday feeds us spiritually into the scattered church, where we work etc. Likewise, the scattered church should in turn feed into the gathered church where we worship together.
The most useful exercise for me, which I offer to you, involved writing the lyrics to a hymn to a well-known tune. I tried and found it liberating to not be constrained by some of the platitudes of Christianity but able to engage and wrestle with a God who sometimes seems far away. The very act of writing, not for public display necessarily, I found a useful way of communicating with God and it may be helpful for others as well, especially when God seems to be hiding Godself.
(Loosely) To the tune of I Vow to Thee My Country
Where o where is God, my saviour,
I really want to know.
I am hurting, really hurting,
Your coming is far too slow.
I want to love and believe
That you are the God I trust,
But with so many things going wrong,
My faith has turned to dust.
Yet, as I look around me,
Creation in full bloom,
A designer seems the answer,
Perhaps it's not all doom.
All I want from heaven
Is a wink or a slight nod,
To reaffirm my Saviour
Is my link between life and God
I know that my God loves me
and he's not far away,
Christ I'm sure is my salvation
Though I question every day
To be polished at some time as I only had ten minutes. My reason for printing is to show that anybody could have a go and it is quite a novel way to talk with God.
I came away having met talented writers and if you visited Sam and Sara's website (Engage Worship) I am sure you would find helpful resources for your own spiritual journey, not just to lead a service.
On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to preach at Western Road URC. The reading came from Luke 18:1-8. The parable is about the nagging wife who, through her persistence, managed to persuade a judge who cared for neither God nor his people to acknowledge her rights. The main thrust of the sermon was about the persistence of prayer and how one keeps on praying even if one cannot see those prayers answered. The parable also causes us to think: if a judge can be convinced by continual nagging, how much more would a loving father give to his children?
I cited that it took Colonel Harland David Sanders of KFC fame 1009 attempts before his chicken recipe was accepted and that WD40 gets its name allegedly because this was the 40th attempt to get the formula right, however, I wanted to concentrate not on persistency, but prayer.
When thinking of prayer, it is very easy to say that God will always answer. Indeed, it is a Biblical truth that whatever we ask for, God will give. "For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:8) Yet, it is also a Biblical truth that, as Jesus said in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done". So, as we consider prayer, I want us to imagine a cauldron or a pot into which we will put some of our thoughts and see what brews.
We know for sure that God is good, God is love and in God, we can trust. We know for sure God hears our prayers. We know that God wants to do God's best for God's children. God is ultimately in control. We know that God answers prayers either now, immediately, or in God's good time and that God surprises us by answering prayers in ways we weren't expecting. We know that we can use our good and bad experiences to help others and in some ways, when bad things happen, the experience not only strengthens us but can be used to inspire other people.
Into the pot goes the many blessings that God gives us for which we must say thank you. We must have an attitude of gratitude but we must also continually look for those blessings because sometimes they are hidden.
Into the pot of prayer goes our positivity of mind and trust. We know God is working for us and we can be assured that the outcome will be what God wants.
Into the pot must also go the tension between what we want and what God wants for us. We have to align our thoughts with Gods.
Into the pot goes our freewill. As we have been given this gift, we can choose what direction to take our lives. We have to accept that our free will may clash with other people's free will.
Into the pot of prayer goes the knowledge that we are a fallen people, we are sinners. Through Jesus Christ, who has paid the ransom for our sins, we have an opportunity to have a new, bright relationship with God the creator.
I am in no way advocating gambling in this next story but there is a joke where a person cries to God asking to help him win the lottery. God hears the prayer and replies, "meet me halfway and at least buy the ticket." The idea is we have to play our part if prayers are to be answered. I want to emphasise we have a role to play, we cannot only rely on God's actions.
The final ingredient into our pot is that we can be the answer to somebody's prayer. We have it within ourselves to be the hand, the heart, and the feet of Jesus. We should be looking for opportunities where God works through us to be the answer to prayer.
So, what have we got in our pot; and more importantly, what other doubts can you put in the pot to make it your personal stew? The final answer will come when we meet our loving God, creator, redeemer, sustainer in heaven as to why things happened they way they did and why it sometimes seemed God's face was hidden.
I believe that through the persistent power of prayer we can lessen anxiety, remind ourselves of our purpose, our meaning and our value by continually looking to see how we can be the answer to somebody else's prayer. I am reminded of a quote, "Helping a person will not necessarily change the world, but it will change the world for that person." So let's nag, nag, nag.
Mount Carmel is a coastal mountain range in north Israel that lies along the Mediterranean Sea. In Arabic, it is known as Mount Mar Elias, which translates as Mount Elias/Elijah. This gives us a clue as to where Mount Carmel is first mentioned in the Bible – the Book of Kings.
“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.” (1 Kings 18:19-20)
The prophet and miracle worker Elijah, or Elias as he is known in the Greek, challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest to determine whose God was really in charge of the Kingdom of Israel. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to build an altar on the mountain and ask their god to set it alight. No matter how much they shouted, their god did not respond. Elijah, on the other hand, built an altar and asked the prophets to drench it with water, which would make it harder to light. Nonetheless, when he called on God, “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (18:38) Thus, Elijah proved God was the one in charge of Israel.
This event took place during the reign of King Ahab. Biblical scholars have used the dates of Ahab’s reign to try to learn more about the god Baal. Traditionally, the title Baal was the equivalent to Owner of Lord in the Northwest Semitic communities; however, it was also used for a variety of gods. Due to Ahab’s connection with the Phoenicians, it is thought this particular Baal may have been Melquart, the patron god of the Phoenician city of Tyre.
“So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.”(1 Kings 18:42) After Elijah’s challenge, he claimed a storm was coming to end the three-year drought that had plagued the area. From the top of Mount Carmel, Elijah and his servant watched a tiny cloud in the distance develop into a raging storm.
Since Mount Carmel is a mountain range rather than an individual peak, the location of “the top of Carmel” is not certain. There is nothing written in the Bible to pinpoint a particular mountaintop, however, Islamic tradition believes it may have been the mountain known as El-Maharrakah, which means “burning”.
Mount Carmel is next mentioned in the Second Book of Kings not long after Elijah has been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha has taken on the role of his teacher and is walking along a road when a group of boys start calling out insults. “Get out of here, baldy!” In retaliation, Elisha curses them and two bears maul forty-two of the boys. Then Elisha carries on his journey. “And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.” (2 Kings 2:25)
In 2 Kings 4, we are told the story of a Shunammite woman who Elisha visited regularly when passing through Shunem. Elisha promised her that she would have a son, however, during his childhood, the son died. Distressed, the mother insisted on going to find Elisha. She “set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, "Look! There's the Shunammite!” (2 Kings 4:25) The woman berated him for raising her hopes by giving her a son that did not live long, however, Elisha calmly accompanied the woman back home and raised her son from the dead.
Mount Carmel is also mentioned in a vision of Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa. The vision predicts the fate of Israel and the judgement on Israel’s neighbours. “He said: ‘The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.’”
The destruction of Israel is also written about in Amos 9:3: “Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them.”
The name “Mount Carmel” is used in three different ways, both in the Bible and other written histories. One is the entire 24-mile mountain range and another only the northern half (12 miles). The third is the aforementioned headland at the northwestern end of the range. At its widest, the mountain range stretches five miles and rises to 1,791 feet towards the northeast. Made of limestone and flint, the range is covered in vegetation, including laurel, oak, olive and pine trees. There are several towns within the range and also the city of Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel.
Mount Carmel has been listed as a World Heritage Site due to the discovery of Neanderthal remains and caves that represent roughly one million years of human evolution. According to the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, the Essenes, a Jewish sect from Nazareth in Galilee, once inhabited Mount Carmel. Archaeologists have discovered ancient wine and oil presses in various places on Mount Carmel but whether any of these belonged to the Essenes is debatable.
In the 12th century AD, a Catholic religious order known as the Carmelites was founded on the mountain range in what they claimed to be Elijah’s cave, where the prophet hid after escaping from Queen Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. There is no evidence to prove this, however, it is believed several hermits dwelt in the mountains. A Carmelite monastery was erected on the site and dedicated to the “Star of the Sea”, another name for the Virgin Mary. During the crusades, the monastery was captured converted into a mosque. Much later, in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, transformed the building into a hospital, only to be destroyed two decades later. Since then, another monastery has been built directly over “Elijah’s Grotto”, which is used as the crypt.
Mount Carmel is also a sacred place in the Bahá’í faith and is the location of the Bahá’í World Centre and the Shrine of the Báb. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have their largest mosque on Mount Carmel.
For fun, I have researched the things you can visit in the Mount Carmel mountain range:
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon