Keep Climbing

June 22, 2008


The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church


John 14:7-15

7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. 12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. 15“If you love Me, keep My commandments.



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I have two words I’d like to share with you today, two words to take with you into the week. You might picture in your mind a mountain climber reaching toward the goal on Mount Everest. The two words, the topic and the title of our sermon, are these: Keep Climbing. Keep climbing, dear friends.


We’re celebrating graduation this weekend, and whether you’re a graduate of high school or college or eighth grade or the school of hard knocks or the school of life that we need to graduate from each day, the two words I’d like you to take with you are these: Keep climbing. Keep climbing, my friends, because there are always new heights to reach.


I’d like to base our sermon this morning on some words of Jesus. What a fantastic chapter to read in the Bible – John 14! It tells us remarkable things that Jesus said about heaven and about life on earth. There is a phrase there that has fascinated me my life long. Jesus said, “Do you need proof to believe in Me? Look at the miracles. But I tell you this: you shall do these, and greater things shall you do who love Me.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus said, “Greater things than the things I do shall you do.” Wow! What a challenge! What a challenge for the future! He did so many wondrous things, and He tells us that we’ll be able to do even more.  Amazing!


I tell you, I think about these things when I read about modern medicine, about things that could never have been dreamed about in Jesus’s time that are realities today. Remarkable medicines that make people better, stents in the heart—are these not part of what Jesus envisioned when He said “greater things shall you do”?


A nation that is based on freedom and caring and understanding? Roughhewn as it is, we still have it. It’s part of the promise of Jesus. Greater things He wished for us.


And so, in the spirit of that verse, my friends, I’m encouraging us all, you and me, to keep on climbing. I’m encouraging graduates to keep on climbing. Friends, remember that graduation is a milestone and not the finish line. I wonder how many of you have walked the towpath over by the canal. Perhaps you’ve walked along that and seen the concrete pillars with the numbers on them? So many miles to Trenton; so many miles to New Brunswick. Graduation is a milestone. You’ve gotten a foundation, and you’re on to climb even higher.


So, my dear graduates, won’t you remember that, as Dr. Bell would say, “It’s only the beginning.” There’s a song like that. That’s what graduation is. It’s only the beginning. There are greater heights to climb.


I remember when I graduated from Choir College, there was a certain attitude that I think is engendered in Choir College students that when you walk down the aisle of the Princeton University Chapel you suddenly know all there is to know about music, at the ripe old age of 21. I tell you this—it was only the beginning. There was so much more to learn. I’ve been so blessed! I’ve studied with Fred Waring and Robert Shaw, Alice Parker, Harold Zabrack. It’s only the beginning when you graduate. There’s so much to look forward to. Your job, and my job, is to keep on climbing. There are so many exciting things to do in our lives and in our careers. “Greater things than these shall ye do,” said Jesus.


I’d also like to speak to those of us who, shall I say, are taking a rest from our dreams. Maybe the vicissitudes of life, the hard things, have caused us to put aside the big projects, the fond dreams and hopes that we’ve had in our hearts. Maybe we’re taking a rest. And it’s okay to rest. But when you feel your rest is through, keep on climbing. Keep on climbing those heights that God has put in your heart. Keep on following those dreams that are before you. Keep on following that flicker that’s inside you. Fan it into a flame, and rise up again. Keep on going to the heights that God has in store for you.


What are those heights for you? They are unique. They are only yours. No one can live them out the way you do. All I can do is to say, keep on climbing. Let me read you a little poem; you may know it. It’s a good one to hear if some of us are resting from our climb. The poem is called “Don’t Quit.”


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will
And the road you're trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
When you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won, had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.


Dear friends, keep on climbing. There are adventurous things to do.


And finally, please remember that climbing is fun! Having a goal and working for it brings remarkable divine powers to our access. Climbing is fun; when you were a little kid, did you ever have a mound of dirt that you played on, that you would run to the top and look out from to see how far you could see? I did. Remember the fun of childhood! Where did we lose that? Where does the excitement of climbing and reaching and trying to make the world better give way to the pressures of the necessary? Don’t lose the glint.


When I was a child, my father built the house that we lived in. He had a lot of spare building material, so there was a whole mound of cinder blocks and bricks and construction material and cut-up BX cable. Do you know what BX cable is? It’s a twisty thing that they put wire in. My friends and I would climb that mound and look out and pretend it was a great seagoing ship. And then we’d pretend it was a sunken treasure vessel, and we’d take the BX cable, and we’d twist it around and put it in our mouths like scuba diving equipment. I know it wasn’t sanitary, but it was a lot of fun.


Climbing is fun. Jesus wants you to have that excitement in your life. So rest if you must, but don’t you quit. And friends, in closing, please think about this: do we ever graduate from the school of faith? Is there ever a time when we can say, “Okay, we know all we need to know about God”? I think not. Faith is an art, just like painting or music, and it grows and grows and fortifies your soul like nothing else can. Stay with the school of faith. There is always some new insight for you in the Bible. There is always some new insight in your devotional reading, in your study, in your coming to church, in your listening to the Gospel, in your talking to friends. Won’t you keep on climbing, and keep on attending that school of faith in your soul?


Jesus says, “Greater things than these shall you do.” And I say, “Oh, yes, you will,” because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week, and keep on climbing. Amen.  


© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski