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!


Gathering In

Isaiah 127:5: It will be as when reapers harvest the standing grain, gathering the grain in their arms.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed that summer is different. It’s something I’ve noticed. I know, the weather is warmer and school is out, which make for some big differences. But summer is also different in that many of us have the opportunity to do some things we ordinarily don’t do in the other seasons. We may go on vacation or visit relatives or go to special events and conferences or have a schedule that is out of the routine. One characteristic of summer is that it involves, for many people, a going out—going out to other places, other experiences, other opportunities.

Then, about this time in August, we begin to sense a change. Some school systems begin classes. Back-to-school items appear in the stores. For that matter, Halloween candy appears in the aisles. The days have grown perceptibly shorter, and nighttime temperatures cooler. We can feel a change coming.

Just as summer means a going out, this time of year involves a gathering in. Families return to a regular schedule, and events are more routine. We are more settled and closed in. In a sense, we come home.

I would suggest to you that this going out and gathering in is characteristic of our faith experience as well. As disciples, we are sent out to a world in sore need of the Gospel. We go and tell. But then, we also gather in the harvest—the souls that God has won and grown to full fruition. The Lord of the Harvest send workers to reap the harvest and all will be safely gathered in. We, too, are set on our way until we reach our journey’s end and God gathers us in. Our Creator and Comforter walks with us every step of the way and when that way comes to an end, gathers us up in his everlasting arms. Praise and thanks be to God for the sending out and for the gathering in!