He was an unlikely candidate for Time magazine's list of the most 100 influential people of the 20th century. Born in a remote part of the world, he never knew which day was his birthday. His education was extremely limited. As a young man, he enrolled in a monastery, thinking to pursue the religious life, but soon left, convinced it was not for him.
A member of the Sherpa people of northeastern Nepal, he soon took up the profession for which his people have become justly famous: mountaineer. Having grown up with the majestic Mount Everest virtually in his backyard, he was recruited for one Everest expedition after another.
The 1952 Swiss expedition had a young New Zealander in its ranks by the name of Edmund Hillary. On one terrible day, Hillary lost his footing and fell into a crevasse. Only the swift action of this Sherpa mountaineer, securing Hillary's rope to his ice ax, saved his life.
When the time came for Hillary's own attempt on the summit as part of John Hunt's 1953 expedition, Hillary knew who he wanted for his climbing partner: the Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, who had pulled him out of the crevasse. By the time the two men made their assault on the highest place on earth, Norgay had far more experience on Everest than Hillary did.
Forever after, the two men resisted answering any question about who had attained the summit first. They were adamant in saying it had been a team effort. Still, when it came time for Queen Elizabeth II to knight the key members of the expedition, it was Hillary and Hunt — the leader of the expedition who never made it to the summit — who knelt before the monarch. Norgay, the indispensable guide who had stood beside Hillary at the top of the world, was passed over.
That's the way it often is with guides. What they do, they do for the sake of those they are guiding. Jesus guided his disciples to a point where they would need to listen and follow another guide in their faith journey — a guide who would "come alongside" and help them to navigate the "crevasses" of life — the Holy Spirit, our Divine Helper and Guide.
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Come and give God thanks for our guide who continues to come alongside us in our journey of faith.