We were round at some friends yesterday evening catching up not having seem them for a while. They were telling us about their recent short trip in South Wales. One day they went to the top of Pen-Y-Fan, hoping to enjoy the spectacular view from the top. The weather was clear when they started out, but by the time they had reached the top, it was covered in cloud !
They told us about their trip around Europe some years ago – that as they arrived at each new area, town, city, etc, they would look for a high place to be able to see the landscape around them, and to get a feel for where they were in that landscape. It might be a hill, or a tower, and anything that gave them some kind of overview. Maybe they’ll get to go back to Pen-Y-Fan one day and take in that glorious view.
There’s a hill near where we live called Robinswood Hill which rises to just under 200m metres. From the top, you can see all around – the city of Gloucester below us; the Malvern Hills to the North West; the Severn Valley to the South; Cheltenham and the Cotswolds to the East. It’s a wonderful spot.
Although we were thinking about literal high places, I wondered about another question to do with our neighbourhood, which is just under a mile from Gloucester City centre – If we imagined ourselves high above the streets where we live, what would we see, and how do we understand our place within it ?
In my reading just this morning, I read this passage from the Hebrew scriptures. It’s a part that describes the end of the life of Moses. Just before he dies, he is given the chance to look down from a high place (Mount Nebo), over the land that God has promised to Israel.
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
Deuteronomy Chapter 34.
It’s one of those coincidences that seem to happen from time to time – when you’ve been thinking about something, and then it pops up soon afterwards from a completely different place. It seems like God is telling you to keep thinking and asking what this is all about. I’m pondering what this might mean for us …
In the early church, one of the ways that leadership was described was to do with being able to see the ‘Big Picture.’ The Greek word is Episcope.
It’s not a word we’re particularly familiar with, but we do know other related words – microscope, telescope, periscope … all intruments designed to see something – something small, something far away, something above you …
If there were such an instrument as an episcope, it would be something that would help you to see the lie of the land around you. An overview. An important aspect of leadership is to be able to so this. It might mean that you’re less likely to get caught up in distractions. You have an idea of what the task is. You have a grasp of what’s needed.
Strangely, it’s about getting a broad view, but one that helps you stay focussed.
Part of the call to follow Jesus involves ‘getting to a high place’ to see the lie of the land. The essential tool for this work is listening. Listening to others tell their stories. Finding out what is important to our friends and neighbours. Learning how to serve those around us.
One of the other passages I read this morning was from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome – these words seem ver relevant to the call to ‘Know Jesus, and to Make Jesus Known.’
How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? Romans Chaprter 10.