Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A Bear and a Man on a Mountain
I got to the summit and was settling into a posture of prayer, when I heard a bellow. It is nothing, I thought. Then I heard some thrashing in the undergrowth. A moose? No, I have heard moose before, and this is no moose. It sounds more like a bear. (I had come face to face with a bear once before, so I have some experience with bear sounds.) Well, I can't concentrate on prayer when I might have a bear at my back. So like the fool that I am, I decided to approach the noise and see if I could get a glimpse... maybe even a photo ... of the critter.
More thrashing and growling. Yep, it's a bear! And it is coming my way! It had clearly smelled an intruder and was defending its territory. My mind went to the Old Testament story of bald-headed Elisha and the bears that rushed out of the woods, mauling whomever was in their path. (2 Kings 2:23-25) You never saw a bald-headed 230-pound man get down a mountain quicker than I did! And I did some mighty powerful praying on the way down!
When I finally reached the bottom, I met a native calmly walking her dog and carrying a bear bell. (I recognized the bear bell from our visit to Yellowstone years ago.) I figured she would know about the mountaintop guardian. "A-uh," she replied, "There are two mother bears with cubs in this valley. She was just defending her own."
The most powerful spiritual teaching ever given was proclaimed on a mountain. It is not what you might expect. When I climbed Little Larcom, I expected a pleasant commune with the God of nature. I expected a "still small voice" and heard the roar of a bear. The same thing happens when you really listen to the Sermon on the Mount.
In the coming weeks I am going to be exploring the Sermon on the Mount in this blog. I do not shepherd a congregation now. I am "a free-lance pastor," as a colleague described his situation recently. In short, that means I can offend anyone I want, without bearing the consequences. (Pun intended.) So let's climb a mountain. It's been a while since I heard a bear roar.