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Thursday, October 18, 2012

the Appalachian Trail

"The Trail That Unites"

I'm blessed to live within 30 minutes of the Appalachian Trail. The trail,
as
you likely know, is over 2,000 miles long, stretching from Springer
Mountain,
Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. I've only hiked a small percentage of it,
but
what I've experienced I have deeply enjoyed. Tens of thousands of others
agree,
whether thru-hikers, section-hikers or (like me) day-hikers.

Recently I watched a video that gave an overview of the AT. A statement
caught
my attention, that it was "a trail that unites". The observation has been
confirmed numerous times.

Many books have been written about hiking the Appalachian Trail. In each,
the
author notes the diversity of hikers one meets along the way. Hikers range
in
age from the very young to the very old. Females and well as males enjoy
the
trek, as do Americans and guests from all over the world. Found along this
long
ribbon on the Appalachian Mountains are people from all kinds of
backgrounds.

What is it that unites these folks? Simply put, the awe-inspiring nature
all
around. The views are the same to each hiker; elevation changes do not vary
according to individuals. The same natural surroundings appeal to each one,
and
that's what unites them.

John Muir, the "grandfather" of America's national park system, once said,
"One
touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Muir was borrowing the phrase
from
Shakespeare, but his meaning is apparent to all who get out to enjoy this
beautiful planet. Outdoors we are reminded that we all have much in common,
despite the details that divide us.

There is another trail, established long ago, that had the express goal of
uniting people: we call it "the church". Jesus declared His intention to
build
His church in Matthew 16:18. That plan was fulfilled in Acts 2. But what
kind
of group would this be? Would it continue the custom of the day by catering
only to certain groups?

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations," Jesus commanded in His
Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). In the decade that followed, the church
reached out beyond the borders of Judaism to embrace people from all
nations,
backgrounds and classes of society. Jesus intended for the church to be "a
trail that unites".

And don't miss the point that the church is a trail, not a destination. The
purpose of the church is to lead us somewhere else; in this case, heaven.
Paul
declared this truth in Ephesians 5:23: " ... Christ is head of the church;
and
He is the Savior of the body." The church exists while we are on earth.
One
day we will be saved to a most glorious place!

For now, while we're traveling on this trail, we are to see ourselves and
all
fellow-hikers as one: "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor
uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in
all" (Colossians 3:11).

What a superior way to live! What a glorious destination to which we are
traveling!

Timothy D. Hall

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