Moving Mountains by the Reverend Daniel Hofmann
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I write this column, I enjoy the warm sun filtering through the windows above our kitchen table. The official start of summer is still a few days away (June 20), and already we are experiencing scorching heat and high humidity. We are grateful to be able to work inside a cool home on such hot days, even though the lugging boxes from room to room, opening them, sorting their contents, and finding an appropriate space to store them seems like a never-ending task. Wava and I have officially moved to Osceola County and are busy getting settled before I begin my work of being your pastor come July 1st .
We have waited so long for spring and summer to arrive, and the beauty of an awakening Mid-Michigan is almost like a shock at first, especially since we also ever so slowly emerge from a 15-month hiatus caused by this world-wide pandemic. While the warmer temperatures and the badly needed sunshine help boost our overall mood, for many people there are still dark clouds hanging over them, obscuring the ability to fully enjoy life. For some it is the threat of an ailing economy, while for others it may be health issues. Many among our friends and neighbors walk through life bogged down by a heavy burden. Sometimes it is unresolved grief, or the shame felt for a wrong committed long ago, or the bitterness of a broken marriage or relationship. If left unattended, many of these heavy burdens seem to only increase in weight with time, until there comes a breaking point when these burdens reach unbearable proportions. Add to this list the still largely unknown after-effects of social distancing and pandemic-weariness, and we may look to the future together with a cautious sense of optimism.
You are likely familiar with the saying, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill,” but what are we to do when life has dealt us several hard blows, and we stand facing a sheer unconquerable mountain? Whenever dark clouds seem to gain the upper hand in my life, I remember an event in the life of the British writer Thomas Carlyle. One of Carlyle’s major works is the voluminous French Revolution. Following at least two years of painstaking research and writing diligently day after day, page after page, with a goose quill and inkwell, Carlyle delivered the bulky manuscript bundle to his friend and neighbor, John Stuart Mill, asking him to read the manuscript and comment on it.
Several days later Mill appeared on Carlyle’s doorstep, visibly shaken and upset over something. As it turned out, Mill’s maid had thoughtlessly used the manuscript pages to light a fire in the fireplace! For days Thomas Carlyle moved about in a stupor. A major part of his life’s work gone up in smoke! He raged, groaned, and declared that never again would he be able to pick up a pen and write.
Then one morning while gazing over the rooftops of London, Carlyle watched a stone mason build a wall. This huge task was done by tackling the wall bit by bit, one brick at a time. As he observed the man labor with patience and great skill, Carlyle received fresh inspiration and energy. No longer would he spend his days grieving over his great loss. No, he would accept the fact that the manuscript was gone, and then, like the stone mason, he would build his monumental work on the French Revolution again, bit by bit, page by page. In that fashion Thomas Carlyle rewrote his history of the French Revolution, a book that even today is among the world’s greatest literary achievements.
When I started the long journey of recovery following open heart surgery four years ago, several of the exercise equipment pieces I needed to use in physical therapy faced a wall with a Chinese proverb filling the entire wall: “If you want to move a mountain, begin by carrying away one small stone at a time.” Didn’t Jesus remind us in the gospel of Matthew to “Come, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest?”
I am excited to be on this journey of rediscovering who we are as Reed City United Methodist Church in the post-pandemic world. The challenges ahead may seem like mountains too big to conquer, but we can face each day with the assurance that the risen Christ is walking by our side, bit by bit, step by step, day by day. May we be encouraged to begin moving the mountains in our lives by carrying away small stones, one at a time.
Keep looking up: Jesus is here and with us!
Pastor Daniel Hofmann