Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
Text: Matthew 17:20
Old Testament: Isaiah 40:3-5
New Testament: Matthew 21:18-22
When George Washington met with the Senaca warrior Guyasuta at the confluence of the Ohio, there was a tiny shred of faith that inspired the meeting. Beyond the forests, trees, rivers, and mountainsides, God would bless this place with a community of peace.
Someone once said, Pittsburgh is the most unlikely spot to build a city. It’s difficult to bridge three rivers. It’s a hardship to connect mountaintops like Troy Hill with others like Mt. Washington. The side of the river valley where Bellevue lies has no direct way to Crafton.
Bridges, locks, dams, and retaining walls had to be erected. Mountains were moved and valleys lifted to build roads. Creating the City of Pittsburgh and its suburbs required billions of dollars and trillions of man hours over 200 years. It took faith to draw men and women together to erect this city we call home.
Who would have guessed this could come to fruition when George Washington and Guyasuta met so long ago. Two wars were fought over the rights to this land where three rivers meet. A third war continued to dispute of England over the land. A fourth was supplied by the industry of this great city to keep the new nation united and Pittsburgh could further develop. Several more wars have been fought to defend the life and liberty of this city’s people to develop the faith vision our nation’s founder had when he spoke to Guyasuta.
Washington spoke with this great Indian warrior from his faith in the divine purpose that brought him to western Pennsylvania. He was the voice of confidence of a people who saw America as a holy land of prosperity and peace.
Washington knew there were formidable obstacles to this vision. He knew there were competing visions for this place that did not tolerate what he believed. But George Washington had confidence that God would overcome these obstacles. All that Washington had to do was have faith that God could move mountains.
Pittsburgh could not have been built if millions of people had not shared his faith. Over the 261 years since Washington first came to these three rivers, people from the world over have been drawn by their faith to come to Pittsburgh.
They were immigrants and former slaves. Religious and political refugees left the places of their births with only their faith to carry them across oceans to gather at Pittsburgh. Men and women impoverished by the conditions of their birth came to this land to build families and fortunes that made this city one of the most amazing in the world!
All it took was the tiny faith of one man in the future of God’s making.
When you drive through the streets of Pittsburgh, you see the legacy of unknown millions whose faith alone erected great sanctuaries to the God who had blessed them through Jesus Christ.
Travel through the Strip District and South Side. See the great cathedrals built by fathers and mothers with no social security, no pension plans, no 401 ks, no guaranteed jobs, no acceptance by many who were already here, no government relief plans, no health care plans. They simply had their faith that God would provide for their daily bread, and they would thank him by generously donating their gifts to His glory. They gave by faith from the little they had and made grand glorious monuments to their confidence in Jesus Christ.
Some were stone masons. Others were skilled carpenters. Some were iron fitters and others ceramics layers. Some were painters and others manufactured glass. Some labored in iron foundries, and later steel mills. They left their families in small hillside homes to where their new sanctuary to God was to be built. They contributed freely with skills they brought with them as guildsmen.
Some sewed and cooked, tended to the sick and needy, or taught those who could not read the lessons of Jesus. These great sanctuaries rose from the soil of Pittsburgh’s three rivers from the precious faith they had in God.
They lost children prematurely, husbands from industrial accidents, and wives from disease and hardship. Yet they continued to have faith in God’s capacity to move mountains so they might live an abundant life.
From the Point up the hill to where Major James Grant fought against the French and Indians, out from our Golden Triangle, up the hills and valleys to Oakland and the East Side; Across the Mon and Allegheny Rivers, up the hillsides and along the valleys God’s people of faith continued to spread by their vision in God’s blessing and confidence in His deliverance.
The spirit of the living God drove them forward into country-sides where farms became housing plans, and housing plans became community centers. Relentlessly they moved forward by their tiny, personal faith in God, the inspiration of His merciful Son, and the motivation of His powerful Spirit.
We are the inheritors of mountain movers who trusted that in God all things are possible. We are the recipients of one of the greatest faith endowments of any people on earth!
And it all began, with one man, long ago, whose meeting with his adversary inspired people around the world to have faith that in God, all things are possible.
That man wasn’t a great general, or warrior. He lacked an earthly government backing up His vision for the future. He simply had faith.
Jesus Christ was simply a little man in the Roman Empire, a tiny voice amid Jewish prophets, an insignificant voice on the stage of ancient politics. He sat face to face with His adversary, the Devil. But John the Baptist saw in Jesus of Nazareth’s faith the incredible power described by the Prophet Isaiah.
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low. The uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed!”
This Jesus wasn’t simply an earth mover. He was a people mover. And where He moved people, the earth would be transformed into a place where every man, woman, and child could live an abundant life.
In Luke 4, Jesus proclaims His faith in His Heavenly Father, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind to set liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
These are words of a people mover who moves mountains.
These are the words of a man who knows the obstacles within the human spirit that prevent mountain moving. These words describe the vision that will inspire the poor to have faith that with God’s help, they can move mountains.
These are words that inspire people from near and far to leave their homes and families, to cross oceans and mountains, to ford rivers and pass through forests with a vision of faith. A tiny vision of faith that moves mountains.
You are surrounded by visual evidence that mountains are moved where there’s faith in God, the great mountain mover. You have visible proof that Jesus Christ’s vision for ordinary men, women, and children builds churches and communities. You have evidence that when “you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you.”
We are the inheritors of mustard seed faith. Somewhere in your genealogical tree are two ancestors who struck out from the place of their birth with only their faith in God moving mountains to bring them to America. A man, and a woman left the Old World where darkness and threats threatened their futures. They made it here.
You are in this sanctuary partly because their faith in Jesus Christ. Their personal faith gave them courage to venture into the unknown. You are also here because the intervention by Almighty God at key ways of their journey helped them overcome insurmountable obstacles.
This sanctuary is the fruit of such faith. Your presence here this morning is the fruit of such faith.
You are evidence of mustard seed faith. You have contributed to this great legacy that shows the world that mountain moving is possible!
What you do from this moment forward will show your faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ moves mountains. Faith in Jesus Christ transforms people who are lost and confused into people with direction and confidence.
Faith in Jesus Christ inspires people who are immersed in unhappiness into men and women with conviction and determination to rise beyond the barriers that hold them back from joy.
Faith in Jesus Christ motivates people who have been given much not to count the cost of their sacrifice, but to give freely from their gifts for the glory of God.
Mountain movers are not paralyzed by the circumstances that trouble others. Mountain movers see difficulties as opportunities to show the world the power of God to make all things new.
Mountain movers aren’t heroes of faith. They’re the meek and simple, the unknown millions whose dedication of their lives to Jesus Christ bears extraordinary fruit that amazes the world.
Friends when you look closely at the New Testament, at the portrayal of Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the rest of Jesus’ apostles, you don’t see men who possessed extraordinary abilities. You see men who learned that the tiny faith of a mustard seed moves mountains.
We are such people. God brought you to this service today because you are such a person. You have been blessed with faith in Jesus Christ. You have gifts you are giving from that faith that moves mountains!
You are making a difference in this world. Pray that God continues to bless your efforts to give even greater glory to God!
It only takes the faith of one person in the vision God has for our future to move mountains! George Washington received this vision from Jesus Christ.
One man of faith who saw in the vision of His Lord to make a community of peace the power to move mountains!