Itís the Climb
Mountains and experiences
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2006)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the importance of mountains in spiritual experience.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (It's the Climb) and the means to display them.
- Have available the song ‘The Climb’ from Hannah Montana: The Movie and the means to play it. It is 3.59 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmUGwK_43Tk
- When does a hill become a mountain? I wonder if you know the answer.
A hill becomes a mountain at 305 metres (1,000 feet). According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a mountain is ‘a raised part of the Earth’s surface, much larger than a hill, the top of which might be covered in snow’. It’s quite vague, obviously, but when defining a mountain, I guess what’s important is its height, how far it is above sea level and, to a certain extent, what can be seen from the summit.
- Show Slides 1-4.
Ask the students if any of them have climbed a mountain. Climbing can be hard work, but it’s worth it when you reach the summit!
- Point out that mountains and high places are often important in religions and for people of faith. Mountains figure quite prominently as places where important spiritual events have occurred and where people are given some revelation or special insight.
- In the Bible, mountains have always played a significant part in God’s dealings with his people. For example, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God asked Abraham to go to a mountain to sacrifice his son. This mountain is traditionally believed to be Mount Sinai, which was also known as Mount Horeb. In present-day Egypt, it is traditionally the mountain now called Jebel Musa. It was on this mountain that God later gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Show Slide 5.
- There is also Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great flood.
Show Slide 6.
- Another significant biblical mountain is Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, which was a mountain stronghold that King David captured. David built his palace there and called it the City of David.
Show Slide 7.
- Mountains were also important in the life of Jesus. For example, Jesus went up a mountain by Lake Galilee to give his disciples key teaching, which we now call the Sermon on the Mount. On the night before Jesus died, he and his disciples went to pray on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem.
Show Slide 8.
- It isn’t just in Judaism and Christianity that mountains play a key part in the way in which God reveals himself to key people. Mountains are deemed to be sacred and special in many ancient religions. They are where temples are built and where people have climbed to look for closeness with God.
In Islam, it was in a cave on Mount Hira where Muhammad is said to have had his first vision of the angel Jibril, who gave him a message from Allah. This first message, and all the other messages that the angel later revealed to Muhammad, were collected together to make up the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.
Show Slide 9.
- Mount Fuji, a beautiful mountain in Japan, is regarded as holy by Buddhists as well as by followers of the Japanese Shinto religion. Some say its name is from the ancient, aboriginal fire goddess, Fuchi. It is sacred to the Shinto goddess, Sengen-Sama, whose shrine is at the summit.
Show Slide 10.
- Mount Kailash is a mountain in Tibet. This diamond-shaped peak in the Himalayas is the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia. It is sacred to four faiths: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bon (one of the ancient spiritual traditions of Tibet).
Show Slide 11.
- Machu Picchu is a well-preserved, fifteenth-century ceremonial site high on a mountain ridge in Peru. All around it are mountains that were of the greatest religious importance to the Incas. It contains the ruins of a large Inca palace, temples and other buildings.
Show Slide 12.
- It seems that mountains and the height that they give us almost invite God to use them to talk to his people, whichever religion they follow.
- Imagine what going up a mountain is like: the effort involved in the climb and the reward of the view after you’ve reached the summit. You can see for many miles, farther than you could have imagined. The whole vista stretches out in front of you, to the side of you and behind you. It almost envelops you in its greatness and vastness. I can only imagine how this feeling must increase, the higher the mountain that you scale. And then, if you have been climbing through and above the clouds, there will be the sense that you are getting farther and farther from the Earth.
Time for reflection
Stacy Allison, the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, said of it, ‘The end of the ridge and the end of the world . . . then nothing but that clear, empty air. There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on the top of the world.’
Maybe this is why God chooses mountains, and why they have been held to be sacred for so long. When you are up there, there is nothing but air and clearness.
A mountain can be a place to reflect and understand because anything that might worry you, or crowd you, is at the bottom. The time on the mountain is your time to be, to consider yourself and what is below you.
Maybe the mountain is somewhere people feel that they encounter God because for a short period of time, they give him space to talk to them.
Let us be able to hear you, Lord, when you speak to us,
Whether we are up a mountain or going about our daily tasks.
‘The Climb’ from Hannah Montana: The Movie, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmUGwK_43Tk