We are on a pilgrimage.
None of this is mapped.
Physically we’re not going anywhere these days... but our spirits are.
We have moments of solitude and hours of frustration, gasps of fear and evenings of quiet, those conversations that heal and those conversations that hurt… we have glimpses of a sun-drenched promise and long nights of hurting.
Here is the way God draws maps:
God puts light at our feet.
(This, by the way, is the most frustrating thing about being a pastor--our job description is based on the concept of the mapless sheep-herder.)
We all have a choice: we can respond to the light at our feet,
or we can make-up a new map with clever routes and insurance plans:
there are a bunch of hucksters selling maps.
The Christian call is live by the light at our feet.
The first Christians called this “The Way.”
Another ancient Hebrew word is translated as “sojourning.”
Later Europeans called it “pilgriming”.
To live “In Pilgrimage” means two things:
you are a stranger in a strange land, and
you are going somewhere on faith.
We are on a pilgrimage together, with no map, just light at our feet.
“O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me” (Psalm 43)
Paul (the great sufferer of the early church) seemed to say that the light at our feet was Faith and Hope, and the destination was Love.
Jesus made it sound like the light at our feet was windy: very obvious, but we had no idea where it was going!
The Psalmist says that the light at our feet is YAHWEH's Word (Psalm 119)
The Christian movement has always agreed that the way to open our eyes and ears, and say “yes” to the light at our feet was to PRAY.
Walk with God on the Way by praying.
Walk toward God by praying.
“So that I may walk before God
in the light of life.” (Psalm 56)
Luke started that prayer-for-the-Way trend on social media.
Read “Luke”, and the sequel “Acts” and you see that nothing happens unless, “#they were praying.” (I’m not just joking: nothing exciting happens in either of the two books unless someone was “praying”)
Well… how do we do that???
Give light to my eyes (Psalm 13)
We know full-well what prayer is not! But it is harder to put a pin on what prayer is.
It is NOT fancy-talk oration that makes us look good.
It is NOT self-centered bargaining.
It is NOT superstitious formulas.
And It does NOT require angelic perfection, brilliant theology, clean slates, or good posture.
There is not a Map, but there is a Vocabulary. It is a Spiritual Vocabulary, and it is very rough, real, and human.
Let’s start with the Psalms.
The Psalms are the prayer-book of the Bible, the one Jesus used, quoted from and lived into. It is an intense collection of spiritual vocabulary:
“Hallelujah”s and “How-the-Hell could you!!??”s
Hatred and Tenderness
Curses and lullabies
Metaphor and Memory
Tears and Body Parts
Sacrifice and Weariness
Demands and Praise
And if you read it straight through, in a week, or in a month, there is a lovely rhythm you will begin to feel. The words and images, shared by millennia of Christians and Jews, begin to seep into your daily vision. (They get into your dreams too.)
“The breath that God breathes into us in daily pentecosts,
Is breathed out in our prayers,
‘Telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’”
(Eugene Peterson, quoting Acts 2:11)
This is a rhythm of “YES” to the light at our feet. Without a map, we choose a spiritual vocabulary that makes sense of the light.
There are some warnings, PARENTAL ADVISORIES, around the Psalms though.
First: Hatred and Extreme Violence
“I hate them with Perfect Hatred” (Psalm 139)!!!
The light reveals just how bad the world is, how horrific the oppression, how deep the suffering, and our reaction to the spirituality of evil is hatred. We MUST pray this hatred out, so that God can transform it into something worth pouring our lives into.
Second: We quickly find that prayer makes life MUCH MORE intense. Rather than making things easier we find ourselves loving more, sacrificing big things, hurting more deeply, weeping and raging and singing praises.
Why would we keep saying “yes”?
Because the other thing the light at our feet reveals is that we are not alone, and it is taking us home.
“Home” in spiritual vocabulary is a synonym of “praise.”
This is our destination:
Our work is Praise
Our rest is Praise
Our thoughts are Praise
Our worship, of course, is Praise
Our lives are Praise
Our death is a new beginning of Praise
We’re all going Home together.
To be on a Pilgrimage means we’re saying “yes” to the light at our feet, not the silly maps the con-artists are trying to sell. We say “yes” by praying, using the harsh and human spiritual vocabulary Jesus used. We keep saying “yes,” because we’re going home to the house of praise, and we’re all going home together.
by John Garland, Head Pastor