A pilgrimage, however, is different from a mere journey. Pilgrimage is more purposeful, chosen–or chosen for you. And a pilgrimage most often has a spiritual goal.
In the mid 1990s I traveled to Israel. The trip was spiritually transformational. Stepping out of my hotel room in Tiberias I found myself on the ancient shore of the Sea of Galilee. I stood in awe. The early morning sun walked on the waves, just as Jesus had. Fishermen in their small boats shouted and laughed and grunted pulling in their nets. Suddenly I could see them: James and John and Peter fighting a haul of fish, Matthew trying to keep his writing instruments dry, Jesus laughing at how worried about life they all were. I saw in a new way that Jesus really lived. These New Testament stories actually happened. That trip brought Scripture to life.
One such biblical story that now burns with life in me is in Luke 24:13-35 and is called “The Road to Emmaus.” Two friends of Jesus, broken-hearted from watching him die on the cross, are returning home from Jerusalem. They are hurt, angry, confused. Suddenly a man, who is seemingly ignorant of the crucifixion, joins them on their pilgrimage. He listens to their pain and then pours out truth about Jesus from his Scripture filled heart. In the end, the two experience healing when the stranger breaks bread with them and they recognize him to be their beloved friend and now risen Savior, Jesus. I can relate to that story because my life has been filled with times of seeming aloneness and then somehow, by God’s miraculous grace, I discover Jesus has been with me all along.
Pilgrimages are very often not only physical journeys but metaphorical. Today the people of The Neighborhood Church are joining together on a journey through Lent. Just as Jesus and his disciples began his final pilgrimage, leaving Galilee and climbing the dusty Palestinian hills toward Jerusalem and the cross, so too each day someone from our faith community will tell a story about his or her faith journey for you to read and join in on. We too–on Easter Sunday–will end up at the cross–and prayerfully–changed.
My hope is that as you join us in this Lenten Pilgrimage, you’ll be comforted and challenged by our companionship. And that, in the end, you’ll recognize Jesus has been with us the entire journey. That this trip will bring Scripture to life for you. Chose to join us, won’t you?
On a journey with Christ, Eugene