Up to the Mountain - Resurrected Again
I first heard it nearly seven years ago at a church in Las Vegas, Community Lutheran, where I was serving as intern pastor, recently married and entirely in over my head at a church that ran more like a circus/performance art/incubator of incredible spiritual activity.
A friend from Minnesota came to visit and she told me: Your church is like American Idol.
It was, in a sense, in all the best ways.
In December in Las Vegas, on a not-so-chilly winter Sunday afternoon, I attended a Christmas concert and first heard this song, sung by the incomparable and inspiring Kristen Hertzenberg, accompanied by the pianist who made pianos dance and even organs come alive, the star who deigned to join us for worship whenever he wasn't touring on Sunday mornings, Philip Fortenberry.
Philip and Kristen's version is available here, and I highly recommend it. It's the one I have heard over and over again in these past seven years, seemingly sent to me from God in my randomized iTunes playlist in the car or at home, reminding me of the breadth and power and immensity and mercy and peace of God.
But Kelly Clarkson sings a pretty awesome version too, and you can see that on the YouTube link above. Go ahead - listen and watch - and I'll break down the lyrics below. Music, I believe, has the power to bring life and light into what can feel like the darkness and despair of the depths of life.
I heard Up to the Mountain on my way to church today, later than I'd planned. My 2-year-old son Josh had discovered how to leap from his crib rail to the top of the changing table and empty his diaper caddy on the wall - so as of Monday he was transitioning to a "big boy" bed, which meant no naps and little sleep for the whole family.
We were muddling along, as always, doing the laundry and writing the articles and designing the buildings (that's Ben) and eating and sleeping and living and loving - mixing in a new part-time pastoral call for me and treading the waters of Lent: the spiritual discipline of waiting and of withholding and maybe suffering, as we grapple with the death of God on the Cross.
I was driving and I heard those opening piano chords swell up again in my heart, pounding away, lifting my heart. God was there: there on the mountain, there in the death there in the grief, there in the fear, there in the valley, there with Martin Luther King, Jr.
There with me.
I want to take you through the lyrics, so maybe this song can lift you up the way it always does me. Thanks Kristen and Philip!