Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pilgrimage 2

Pilgrimage 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent time this past summer studying the theme of pilgrimage in order to make some art for a magazine that Kris Camealy was compiling to coincide with a retreat she had planned for March of this year. Unfortunately the retreat has been cancelled, like so much of life in these days of the coronavirus pandemic. 

As promised in that previous post, today I'm going to share some of what I studied on the topic of pilgrimage, as well as more photos from the journal I made to accompany this study.

By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place; a spiritual journey; a holy expedition. Often when we think of this word we think of long ago times when people would travel to go to a religious place for observance of a holy holiday. We see the start of this tradition in the Old Testament, where God spoke of his covenant with his people. Part of that covenant was to include pilgrimage:
"Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel." Exodus 34:23
We then see throughout the Old Testament stories and Psalms reference to the annual pilgrimages made to the temple, to Jerusalem. But there is a different use of the term pilgrimage that uses it as a metaphor for viewing our life in Christ as a spiritual journey; a journey of transformation.

A journey implies that a leaving takes place and that we travel with a destination in mind. We see this type of language as we read God's Word, where Christ-followers are on a journey of leaving their former way of life, of living a new life, of traveling on a journey with the destination being that of becoming Christ-like, and with our eyes on our true home. And so we read Bible verses and passages that use terms such as path, road, way:

"You have made know to me the path of life." Psalm 16:11

:...Lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:24

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the way of will be for those who walk in that way." Isaiah 35:8

"But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to Life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:14

"Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." Psalm 84:5
"Jesus said, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

In fact, in the book of Acts we see many references to early Christians being called "The Way" since they followed the way of Jesus and shared with others the way to be saved. (Acts 9:2; 16:17; 18:25-26; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22)

With the call throughout the New Testament to keep our eyes on our true home, Christians are often reminded that in this world we are aliens and strangers - pilgrims - who, while we make this place our home, we are merely passing through on the way to our eternal home. And while we have our final destination in view, our focus is on the journey, the process of becoming more and more like the One who redeemed us and called us to this new life.

Living life as a pilgrim calls us to view all of our life as one who is on mission, on a journey, making us all missionaries, whether we travel abroad or stay in our home towns. It's a way of seeing this life through the eyes of an exile in a foreign land. Author Elliot Clark, in his book Evangelism as Exiles, puts it this way:

"In my experience, many missionaries - even volunteers on short-term ministry trips - tend to consciously approach every moment in relation to mission. They saturate their days in prayer. They consider the intended or unintended consequences of their mannerisms and behavior, being careful how they spend their money, how they dress, and how they interact with others. They demonstrate the utmost respect and honor for locals, even to people drastically different from them. They also view random encounters as God-ordained opportunities, so they purposefully speak with just about anyone about their faith."

But then, this thought now leads me away from the focus of my journal and into a focus on  missional living and outreach.  I spoke on that topic last weekend at our Women's Ministry brunch, but I'll save that for another post, maybe "Pilgrimage 3" if there's an interest. Let me know in the comments. :)

So, this study and journaling was all done back in the summer, but in our current times it feels even more appropriate to remember who we are. And also to remember "whose" we are. In times that feel uncertain and even scary, it's good to remember that this world is not our true home. While we journey through this life, we who are Christ-followers are called to a particular way of life and way to live. In the midst of social-distancing and self-isolation, of no church services, of schools and businesses closing, of job losses and economic crisis, I feel the call even more deeply to be on the journey Jesus has called us to. I feel called, now more than ever, to serve those in need and to care for one another, while at the same time practicing wisdom and taking precautions. We need to find ways to care for those who will struggle with food crises during this time. To take care of the needs of the elderly and those who are immune compromised. To minister to the needs of those who are sick and quarantined. I'm finding ways for those in my church to minister in these times and I encourage you to do the same.

I'll leave you with the last few pages of the quotes I found on pilgrimage:


  1. I bought the Refine Journal. I have only read a few articles and already have found inspiration. It is a wonderful magazine. I hope that you will have an article in it next time alongside your artwork.