“Looking Forward, Looking Back”

Olivet Day School

School Closing Chapel Service

June 15, 2006

Looking Forward, Looking Back”

Rev. James P. Cooper

(EXO 13:3-5) And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. {4} “On this day you are going out, in the month Abib. {5} “And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month.

(Exo 13:17-22) Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” {18} So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. {19} And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.” {20} So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. {21} And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. {22} He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

  1. Back when I was in college in Arizona, a friend invited me to join him in a hike across the Grand Canyon.

    1. We drove to Grand Canyon Village on the south rim, chartered a small plane, and flew across to the north rim.

    2. We hiked from the north rim to the Colorado river in one day.

      1. Anyone who has read Marguerite Henry’s Brighty will know the trail.

      2. 1 mile down, 25 miles long.

    3. I slept on a sandbar where the Bright Angel Creek joins the Colorado River.

    4. I was so stiff and sore when I woke up that I could barely move.

      1. I looked up and could see Grand Canyon Village a mile above me and I knew I had to get there before sundown to catch the ride home.

  2. The first part of the trail was along the river. Walking in the warm sun got me loosened up – until the trail turned up.

    1. It was only 8 miles long – but it was a mile up, too!

    2. It was too steep to walk continuously, even slowly.

      1. I’d walk 10 paces and then stop to rest.

      2. Every time I stopped, I’d turn to look at the view and to see how far I had come.

    3. Every time I started walking, I’d look up at Grand Canyon Village to see if it seemed any closer.

    4. Several times I had to stop and take off my boots to cool my feet in the stream.

    5. Several times I had to get out of the way of tourists on mules.

    6. After 10 hours I reached the rim, stepped out of the canyon and arrived in Grand Canyon Village in time for my ride back to Tucson.

      1. I still remember how good it felt to stand on the edge and look all the way across the Grand Canyon, and know that I just walked all that way in just two days. I felt a lot better standing on the rim looking back than I did that morning when I was standing beside the river looking forward to a hard climb.

  3. Lots of people have noticed that life itself is kind of like a journey.

    1. Remember the Journey of the children of Israel, how they were freed from slavery in Egypt, and then spent the next 40 years in the wilderness, getting ready to enter the land of Canaan.

    2. Sometimes school seems like a long, hard, uphill battle. You just get through one grade and get to feeling really good about it, and the next thing you know you are starting all over in another grade.

    3. Or you can look at it from a bigger picture

      1. School

      2. Family

      3. Adult life

      4. Getting ready for heaven!

    4. These things probably seem pretty far away to you

      1. Sort of like looking up at Grand Canyon Village from the bottom of the Canyon.

      2. Here’s a way to tackle the problem.

        1. Break it up into little steps.

        2. Every so often, turn around and see just how far you’ve come.

          1. A school closing ceremony would be a good time to do that, don’t you think?

        3. Then look up at your goal and notice that you are getting closer.

  4. In our school, we often read about and study the Holy City New Jerusalem.

    1. Given as a vision to John, it is a picture of heaven.

    2. There it is, up in the sky, our goal.

      1. Be steady in your course.

      2. Look back from time to time to appreciate what real progress you have made.

      3. Rest when you need it because it is hard work (but not impossible).

      4. But always keep heading for that goal.

    3. Remember the children of Israel

      1. The pillar of cloud by day

      2. The pillar of fire by night

      3. No matter where they might be in that wilderness, they always knew the Lord was near, leading and protecting them.

      4. No matter where you go in your life, the Lord will be with you too – all you need to do is look for Him and He’ll be there. Amen.

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