August 21, 2016: 13th Sunday after Trinity


TEXT: Hebrews 12: 18-24

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Maybe you’ve never been to North Dakota, but I have. It’s flat, very flat. You drive and drive before you get anywhere. You can see every horizon. They have a saying: “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here!” I recall my best friend coming to visit us a number of years ago. He lived in ND when he was younger. He loved our trees, the green, the hills and mountains of New England. I took him up Pack Monadnock on the road that leads to the top. It was a clear day. You could see the White Mountains to the north, the Boston skyline to the southeast, and Vermont to the West. He was thrilled! It was an eyeball feast of angular irregularity. It would really be hard to be bored with such a view every day.

Our hot, dry summer is coming to an end. We all need to get out and gain some new perspectives. The mountains beckon. And although you didn’t wake up this morning in Franconia Notch, you’ve still come to a very good place to gain such perspective. For today, we’re going to have:



To get the full flavor of God’s Word, you need to scale three mountains. You start with Sinai, then go on to Zion via Calvary. Sinai is a granite-ribbed monolith that stands in the Negev desert. It also signifies what our relationship with God would be had it not been for Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews speaks of its unapproachable nature. (It’s not welcoming at all.) It was surrounded by fire and darkness. Both hide our most Holy God from human sight. They combined to keep humans away from the perfect Creator and prevented us from polluting His perfection. Sinai is unapproachable because we’re all sinners. It could not even be touched without dire, deadly consequences. Those being: earthly death and eternal damnation. Standing before that mountain and beholding the awesome, hidden majesty of God inspired fear among the children of Israel. We’re told they could not even bear to hear the trumpet blasts of God’s voice emanating from it. And they could not bear what the message of those trumpets was: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight of all this was so terrifying to Moses that he said: “I am trembling with fear.” So much for man standing up to God.—World leaders of today, beware!

God makes no exceptions. You cannot climb Sinai on your own. In other words, you cannot win, earn, or curry His favor enough to please Him. He’s perfection, we’re not. He’s pure love, we’re not. He’s about total surrender and trust in Him, and we possess neither by nature. Sinai is God’s Law. It is His perfect will. We can never scale its heights—which are the jumping off point to heaven, or Mt. Zion.


But, this is where Mt. Calvary comes into play. That’s the mountain that makes a difference, an eternal difference in our relationship with God. For the person on top of Calvary is Jesus Christ. And not only did He scale Calvary, He also carried us on His back as He did so and thus our feet never touched that holy ground!

The best part of going up Pack Monadnock is the fairly easy car ride. The road goes all the way to the top. Well, Jesus did, too. Our lesson tells of how Jesus transports us summit-ward. “You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Abel was a good man unjustly slain by his brother Cain. But Abel wasn’t perfect. Abel wasn’t God. Abel’s blood could never placate God’s perfect sense of justice over our sins. However, Christ wasn’t Abel. He was and is the eternal Son of God. And in pure love God chose Christ to be the Mediator, the Go-Between between sinners like us and Himself. As our Brother in the flesh, Jesus experienced our death and our damnation on the cross. His priceless blood shed for us makes His sacrifice far greater than Abel’s. Abel’s blood called for vengeance—and Cain was punished. Christ’s blood calls for forgiveness—and by faith we are piggy-backed upon His shoulders and carried up Sinai, past Calvary, and finally to Zion—the mountain that signifies what God’s idea of our relationship with Him should be.


“But you have come to Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”

Zion stands for peace. It stands for eternal peace. In fact, that’s was Jerusalem means: the possession of peace. Through faith in Christ, we’re citizens of both! We HAVE that peace! Note the careful use of the words: “You have come.” This is our ongoing reality this very moment in time. Right now He’s watching over us and directing our lives—even though we don’t see His long-range plans. Right now we’re enjoying those various fruits of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And after death we get to enjoy this kind of citizenship even more fully. Just sit back and ponder your blessings, dear Christian! Glimmers of Zion are evident right now….

We’re all members of God’s summit club. In that, we’re in distinguished company. We’re eternally connected with all those saints who have been taken to the top through faith in their Savior. We’re all linked with “thousands upon thousands of angels,” and are in close fellowship with God Himself, Who is the Judge of all. However, since Jesus is that Judge, none of this elicits fear from us, but thankfulness. Yes, through faith we find comfort, not fear, in His justice. Down below us, far below us, lies evil and inequity. But it can never hurt us again because those angels of light beat back the darkness. Yes, we’re been carried to the summit by those proverbial “eagle’s wings.”

Whenever I scale a mountain, I want to linger. I really don’t like to descend. Well, we will never have to descend Mt. Zion! It is our eternal home. Knowing that is a sure cure for summertime boredom. Amen