Skip to main content
pilgrimage 44d2174c pilgrimage 44d2174c

Rediscovering the pilgrimage

It's February. Just about everywhere it's gray and cold. Whatever is wrong in your life bubbles up as a general angst rooted in monotony. And in the background is perhaps this unformed question, "Is this all there is?" Another way of asking the question is, "Where is the…
By Seth Barnes

pilgrimage

It's February. Just about everywhere it's gray and cold. Whatever is wrong in your life bubbles up as a general angst rooted in monotony. And in the background is perhaps this unformed question, "Is this all there is?"

Another way of asking the question is, "Where is the transcendence?" It's a question that gets answered on a pilgrimage, something we all need.

While I've been taking time off from the blog, I've been studying where the idea of a pilgrimage came from. A pilgrimage is a kind of a kingdom journey. What's unique about a pilgrimage is that you know where you're going. You just don't know what adventures you may have along the way.

Think about it – Jesus was born into a culture that required kingdom journeys as a regular part of people's lives. Jesus' was born on a journey his parents were compelled to take. People gave his parents a barn to stay in. And his whole ministry was one big kingdom journey wandering from village to village. Ultimately even his death ended on a mini-journey – the Via Dolorosa.

In ancient Israel, three times a year, the nation would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate a festival. God in the Bible (the Torah – Ex. 23) mandated that his people regularly leave home in order to attend a national party. God understands our need to be pulled out of our monotony and self-sufficiency to be reminded of his transcendence.

So God mandated a regular kingdom journey becauses he knew we needed to practice relying on him, moving to a place of dependency. We all want to know he exists and cares for us, but most of us need help in moving toward intimacy that we feel when he provides for us in our hour of need.

So his people went on a pilgrimage to celebrate:

They walked/journeyed the dusty back-trails to the party site. If Jews are a reviled minority around the world, they are at least cohesive. And that cohesion was formed in part by the journeys embedded in their national psyche.

What do we have as a correlary in our modern day? Well, we don't have much. And so, most American Christians never learn to depend on God. "Give us this day our daily bread" is an anachronism. Why pray for bread when there's already so much of it that most of us are struggling to find that one diet that will do the trick?

Yes, we have short-term missions trips, but only a small percentage of Christians go on them. Most STMs come pre-loaded with carefully defined itineraries – sapping the journey of its power. They are a far cry from the pilgrimages of ages past.

Down through history there have been journeys that resembled the ones that Jesus went on, some ironically planned by the enemies of the faith.

My friend Marty Schoffstall had an old Filippino friend who saw the Bataan Death March. Thousands of POWs were killed by their Japanese captors along their way. He compared it to Jesus' last journey, the Via Dolorosa. Both were a march toward death, the condemned forced along by their captors.

We grow up living in an instant drive-thru culture and need to rediscover our roots. We particularly need our roots as pilgrims along a special part of life's road – the part where we leave home and meet God somewhere unexpected over the horizon.

Applying This
If God mandated journeys so that we would learn to depend on him, then we perhaps we need them more than we realize. Consider going on a Luke 10 journey that requires you to ask God for daily bread. To rediscover transcendence, consider practicing a discipline that leads you to dependence.

We all deserve the chance to depend on God in intentional ways. We deserve the opportunity to see our faith grow on a kingdom journey.

Have you gone on a journey that has caused you to really depend on God in a way that shook you? What did it do to your faith? What did you take away?

Comments (9)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

about team