Saturday, April 14, 2007

Life as Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:2, 5

I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

This Psalm tells of the blessings of communion with God and the joys of taking a pilgrimage to His temple in Jerusalem. We don't very often take pilgrimages as contemporary American Christians; we don't hear of people selling all they own to travel to Jerusalem or Rome or Canterbury (or Springfield). Perhaps we understand that God is not contained in certain places but is in all places and all things, but we should not give up on the concept of pilgrimage altogether.

To be in the world but not of it means to be alienated from the world in many ways--from its social structures and cultures and philosophies. Our true home has nothing to do with any nationalistic ties but instead with a hidden and downright subversive Kingdom of God. We are all pilgrims together on this long journey. I've never exactly felt at home here, no matter where I've been geographically; and perhaps I never want to. I don't suppose I'll ever be home here in that smug, satisfied sense. It's all too tempting to settle and build a house, get a few cars and a retirement plan and begin trusting in myself for security--my occupation or education, my family, my possessions. These things are important, but we must remember they are all fading away. We aren't to build mansions on earth but sleep under the stars as pilgrims--wandering around, together with other pilgrims, through the valleys and on the mountaintops, sometimes lost, but always trusting in the One who has called us in the first place. God offers "joy and strength" to those who take this journey. Even when we "walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs" (v. 6).

The journey is always beautiful, often difficult, but through it all we must keep our eyes on what awaits us at the end of it--God Himself. Unity with the divine. And our whole being will "shout joyfully to the living God" as we finally rest in His presence (v. 2).

-John Orzechowski

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