High and Lifted Up

Road Leading to High Mountains

Isaiah 6:1: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

I don’t know that many of us think about escalators and elevators. They’re there and we use them, and a few people aside who have claustrophobia or a fear of falling, most of us think they’re convenient. Evensong Bells thinks an elevator in this building would be a gift from God, and while God’s time is best, my hope as someone who plays bells and, as part of the job, schleps cases around when we play in the front of the sanctuary or take our bell songs on the road. It takes either two bell players to carry one of the two largest cases, but Jim Harris can carry both at once. He is one strong man. And here ends the commercial from Evensong.

I’ve always been fond of any device that can transport me to a higher level be it airplane, funicular, ski lift, rescue basket, and of course escalator and elevator. (I’m talking physically being lifted up here–hold on for the spiritual transport. You’re on your own for the emotional version.

Now, if you’re claustrophobia and must avoid elevators, I can’t help you much. But I can do something about fear of an elevator cable snapping as it seems to in the movies and a car packed with people falling to their horrible demise. In our local writing group, Write by the Rails we had a visitor one evening who was an elevator inspector. Normally we go around at the end of the meeting and talk for a few minutes about what we’re doing and what help we may need, if any. When our guest’s turn came up, someone asked about falling elevators such as those we see in disaster movies. His answer was that it’s physically impossible for an elevator in good repair to fall because of the way they’re designed. Think about—how many times is there a story about an elevator falling with multiple fatalities on the news? I can’t ever remember seeing one. Not that that proves anything, but if you find out about such an accident, please let me know.

Escalators fascinated me from an early age. If I had to choose between them and elevators, I would choose the moving steps. The engineering is fantastic, and while you’re more likely to be injured on an escalator, if you tie your shoes, watch where you’re putting your feet and hold on to the handrail, you’ll be fine. (The preceding announcement was brought to you by your mom, who also wants to remind you to wear a raincoat, eat healthy food and not talk to strangers.)

On teacher workdays in elementary and intermediate school, our mom would take my brother Ron and me to what was then called Parkington and now Virginia Square. Parkington was so called because of the large multi-story parking garage behind the multi-story Hecht Company building, whose façade was made up of large glass windows. It was an imposing sight and sported escalators which, while new and made of steel, lacked the soul of the ones in a store at our next stop, McCrory’s in Clarendon. For most of my pre-high school career, they had wooden escalators. I wish I could tell you what kind of wood they used, but I didn’t develop an appreciation for different kinds of wood until high school. The escalators at McCrory’s were old and funky, and our mom would leave us to ride the escalators up and down while we shopped. We would have ridden all day had she not threatened to leave us and see how much we would enjoy walking the thirteen miles to our house in Fairfax. Somehow, we managed to never make that walk, which would have spoiled a nice day of riding elevators.

Now, it seems to me that sometimes God lets us carry the heaviest hand bell cases over all kinds of terrain, including high mountains. At other times, he provides a nice wooden escalator to take us to new heights. And at other times, we have those rapid breathtaking ascents as we do in one of those glass elevators that pop out from the building and we feel there’s nothing holding us up but the floor. All these experiences are part of the journey we’re on, and whether we’re toiling up the mountain on foot or riding in style to the top the God who created us and loves us so much is there with us and ahead of us. Thanks be to God for God’s eternal presence and care!


Neither Hot nor Cold

Fire and Ice
Revelation 3:16: And so, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

I don’t know how many groups you are a part of. The average for present day Americans is six different what are called “affinity groups.” Such a group is made of persons who share an interest activity, such as golfing or alligator wrestling. I counted up the groups I am a part of and came up with ten, which probably means I am overactive and need to relax some more.

Two groups I belong to are the choir and Evensong Bells. One of the interesting things about these groups is that they both have people who have, shall we say, temperature regulation issues. Given the same environment for a rehearsal room, one person may experience the room as blazing hot, while another sitting beside him or her will attest that it is surely too cold. In bells, we are often treated to the sight of one player fanning herself to cool off while the player next to her is piling on sweatshirts and heavy winter coats. This fascinating phenomenon takes place without fail at every rehearsal. I don’t know the cause or the remedy: I’m just having a good time watching it happen.

It’s no secret that this winter has been a hard one, with cold temperatures and enough snow to make us heartily sick of it. We have experienced closings, delays, outages and inconvenience, but as I heard someone say, we’ll be wishing for cooler conditions in July when parking lots are approximately the temperature of the sun. It seems that we as human beings long for what we don’t have at the moment, and then want something else entirely when we have that. I think that’s called yearning and it’s part of what keeps us moving forward.

In Revelation, John wrote about a congregation of his time with temperature regulation issues. He characterized the church at Laodicea as being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. The implication is that it is better to be hostile to the Gospel than indifferent to it. God has no use for those who don’t make a choice. The same principle applies to human relationships: I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference. So it is as well with believers.

So, whether you are as hot-natured as a volcano or as cold as an icicle, I congratulate you. You have chosen where you stand, and that’s much better than being neither one nor the other. Other passages speak of keeping our “first love” that we had for Christ, for being on fire with the Gospel so that our heat and warmth touch others. And may this be so for each of us. Amen.