Everything I Needed to Know I Learned Climbing Mt. Katahdin









Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Sept. 1, 2019

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


The part of this passage I’d like to highlight is this: “Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”    (Deut. 6:7)

The Living Bible puts it this way:

You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning.

The NIV says this:

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

What I like about this verse is that it implies that a lot of what we teach our children happens in the daily flow of life. At home, out for a walk, in the morning, at bedtime and many times in between.

I‘ve always believed that some of the best times to teach and learn together is while doing something fun and/or challenging. That’s why I like camping and hiking. Something always goes wrong on a camping trip. The tent leaks. The air mattresses deflate. We get lost on a hike. You name it; it happens!

This summer my son Sam & I hiked Mt. Katahdin in Maine, and it was a learning experience for us both. 

I’d like to tell you about it, but I thought it would be more interesting for you if I showed you.

(this isn’t really a sermon; it’s just a talk with theological reflections)


Every summer my family & I go on our annual camping trip to Mt. Desert Island & Acadia National Park. My sons, Ben & Sam, have gone there almost every year of their lives. It’s the best week of the year for all of us. And as you can see, they are hikers!

Acadia Mountain


My son Sam has always been fun to hike with!

He’s not afraid of heights, so he’ll hike anything. Below, look how close he is to the edge!


We’ve hiked every peak in Acadia National Park, including the Precipice. I’ve gone to Acadia for over 30 years, and I’ve never had a desire to hike the Precipice, but Sam wanted to, and I couldn’t let him do it alone.

Does that look like fun?

Ever since we climbed the final peak in Acadia, Sam has set his sights on Mt. Katahdin, “The Mountian of Maine.”

Mt.Katahdin, Baxter State Park

July 24, 2019

First we hiked over 3 1/2 hrs to get to the top of Mt. Pamola.

The peak of Mt. Katahdin is right over Sam’s head in the picture above.

To get there we had to cross over “The Knife’s Edge,” pictured below.

Its name comes from the fact that it drops off steeply on both sides.


The Knife’s Edge was exhausting. It took Sam 2 1/2 hrs to cross it. It took me almost 3 hrs.

We climbed over every single one of those peaks above, and even several more that you can’t see in the picture.

Mt. Katahdin  5,269 feet


We then had a 5.5 mile hike down and back to our car. This trail was also difficult and took us about 6 hrs.

Lessons Learned

Preparation is Everything!

We knew this would be a very challenging hike, beyond anything we’d ever done. The mountains of Acadia that we climb are just hills compared to Katahdin. To prepare I went to the gym almost everyday for 4 months to get in better shape. We read the hiking guides. I also spoke with folks who’ve done it and other experienced hikers. All our preparation paid off. But there were also ways in which that we didn’t prepare well enough. For instance, we ran out of water with over 3 miles still to go. And I had been too cheap to buy those little pills that purify stream water. This made the last stage of the hike even more exhausting.

I Timothy 4:8-10

While physical training is of some value,

godliness is valuable in every way,

holding promise for both the present life

and the life to come.


In the passage above Paul calls us to spiritual preparation in order to be spiritually fit.

What would that look like?

How about a life of prayer, worship, joy and love, committed to spiritual & personal growth

and service to others?


Another lesson learned on Katahdin is the importance of doing hard things!

I spend too much of my time trying to find the easiest, most convenient way to do things.

There’s often a great benefit to doing hard things, because good things happen when we are challenged!

I got to the gym consistently, because I had to get in better shape in order to complete this hike and still be in one piece. Sam & I grew closer through the entire experience – the fun of planning it, the exhaustion and physical pain of doing it, and the satisfaction of accomplishing it.

The Apostle Paul recognized the benefits of our struggles & challenges. He put it this way:

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5


Here’s another lesson I’m happy to share. What’s the meaning of this cartoon?

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!!!

I used to be very uncomfortable with heights. I never would have climbed this mountain in my teens, 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. Who knew I could challenge myself and conquer fear in my 50’s? We can keep growing and learning new skills all our lives!

Here’s another lesson learned . . .

This experience reminded me again of the importance of making family memories, stories that will be told around the Thanksgiving table for years and years to come.

Our memories tell our story.

This is true of our faith as well!

The Memories of the Israelites & the Disciples
tell the Story of our Faith!

Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Deut. 6:12

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.  Deut. 8:2a

I will remember the deeds of the Lordyes, I will remember your wonders of old.  Ps. 77:11

“This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19


Just like our family stories, the stories from the bible give shape and meaning to our lives, building identity within us and bonds between us.


I’ll close by telling you one quick story.

We arrived at the parking lot to begin the hike at 6:30 am. They limit the number of people inside the park. You have to reserve a parking spot in advance, and if you’re not there by 7:15 am, they may give it away. Before we got out of the car, I said to Sam, “Let’s pray.” Now, prayer and church are not exactly Sam’s thing right now. So I was a bit surprised when he said, “Yeah, Absolutely.” He then leaned forward and bowed his head. As I ended my prayer he said the most sincere “Amen” that I’ve ever heard. He knew we needed all the help we could get for the journey ahead of us.

That Amen made the whole hike worthwhile.



PS. I have no plans to ever hike Mt. Katahdin again. But I told Sam that he’d have to hike it again when he’s 59 years old, so he knows what I went through!!!



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