This last week marked the 50th anniversary of the first scaling of Mount Everest, the highest peak on this planet. Since that day hundreds of explorers have followed in the footsteps of Norgay and Hillary to replicate their feat. In fact, the record time recorded to scaling the peak has fallen to half a day. Many climbers no longer view Everest as the pinnacle of mountain climbing, preferring challenges of other peaks.
One might consider that there are few places left for an ordinary person to be a pioneer: there is little uncharted territory on earth, most of the physical challenges have now been overcome. The two poles have been visited, the highest peaks and the greatest depths have been monitored. We have walked on the moon, explored Mars, and sent probes into deep space. The Human Genome has been mapped, the four-minute mile and the 10-second 100-metres have been overcome by significant numbers of people. Significant progress has been made in the treatment of many diseases, such that life expectancy for those born today is close to 100 years. Are there any challenges left? In the realm of knowledge and human athletic achievement, there appears to be little room remaining.
For all our knowledge and achievement, world poverty continues to remain as a blight upon humanity. Prejudice racial, social and economic continues to run rampant. War is still preferred as a pathway towards resolution of international problems. Political leaders rely on lies and spin to achieve unjust processes and outcomes but are they really much different from the average person? Suspicion of those who are different is still a major cause of conflict, such that we fail to see our common humanity. We need pioneers who are prepared to forge a way forward in which we can celebrate our common humanity in the midst of its wonderful diversity
And inside the church there is still more room for pioneers: people who are prepared to forge new pathways into community, where humanity, spirituality and God can be explored and experienced in new ways. It is ironic that we are in an age where the mega-church is at its peak, yet more and more people feel alienated from the spirituality of the church, while at the same time yearning for a meaningful experience and understanding of God.
Tonight we indeed celebrate the pioneering spirit God has given to us. We do not know where it will lead us, and are not entirely sure how to gauge its success, but I sense that God has called us to a brave task. Our Sherpa? The Holy Spirit, who knows every pathway, and the heart of God.. May he guide us into the unknown places of God.
June 1, 2003