On A Pilgrimage

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, images of horns of plenty and wandering pilgrims often come to mind. But what, exactly, is a pilgrim? Someone on a pilgrimage is on an important journey with a purpose. Unlike our Muslim neighbors who are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, if they are able sometime in their lives, Christians don’t really have anything similar to such a pilgrimage.12776

One example may be found in the Old Testament (Exodus 15-16) where the Jews wandered in the wilderness for forty years before coming to The Promised Land. It was a time of uncertainty. The Lord had delivered them from bondage in Egypt and given them Moses, Aaron and Joshua to lead them on to freedom.

Probably the closest thing we have to it in the New Testament is Jesus’ assurance to the disciples on the night in which he was betrayed: “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be also.” It was a place of “many mansions” (John 14:1-6).

So, you might say that we’re all pilgrims on a journey. But, as with any pilgrimage, we soon find that the journey itself matters as much as the destination itself. Unfortunately, too many well-meaning Christians spend all their time focusing on the destination and their own personal salvation that they miss the needs of people right here, right now. In other words, we become so heaven-bound that we’re no earthly good! So, if the journey is just as important as the destination, then how do we plan to get there? Who do we invite along? What will we bring for supplies? What mode of transportation will be most reliable? What is a safe speed?

Years ago, during a staff development session, someone compared the journey to a ‘church van’ in which each person played a vital role in getting us to our destination (see diagram below). So, what role to you play? Where do you see yourself in the ‘church van’ carrying us in mission? Are you the windshield wipers, helping us see better? Are you the shock absorber, easing the way through the potholes? Maybe you’re the GPS keeping us on track or a honking the horn (with encouragement, of course!). How are you contributing gas to make sure we reach our destination? (See separate mailing about our 2016 pledge drive!)

Church Van Assessment ToolI recently received an email from an old friend who is a retired pastor. He shared with me a few words from the “Self-worth Creed” that his church in Milwaukee has adopted. It begins with the words: I am unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable, and of infinite worth and dignity…” We are all pilgrims, only passing through this land but what we have to contribute is of infinite worth and dignity. How dare we doubt ourselves or belittle others along the way! Each one of you is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Think about that.

In this season of Thanksgiving and stewardship, I give thanks for each one of you and the vital role you play in keeping us “on the road” and “on our way” in this pilgrimage to our heavenly home. Thank you for playing your part. This journey just wouldn’t be the same without you.

Pastor John

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