This is the time of year that we think about pilgrims. We remember the pilgrims and the Native Americans sharing a meal together, at the harvest, after the pilgrims had survived their first year. We celebrate this occasion at Thanksgiving.
I recently wondered why we call the people who came to Massachusetts the Pilgrims. Apparently, the name came from a verse in the King James Version of the Letter to the Hebrews 11:13, which talks about the people of faith and says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced the, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” The Pilgrims left their homes, persuaded that they could trust in God’s promises and went on a pilgrimage to the new world.
At our Diocesan Convention, Bishop Sean invited us to be pilgrims. Drawing on the story of the Exodus, as the people went on pilgrimage from slavery in Egypt to the promised land, he invited us into seeing our time together, as a diocese over the next year, as a pilgrimage. Like the people of Israel, and the Massachusetts Pilgrims, we do not know exactly where we are going, but we are to trust God’s promises and to know that God goes with us on our pilgrimage.
We officially enter into pilgrimage as a diocese in Advent. But we have a head start at Mediator, as we have already begun a pilgrimage with the people of Grace Church, as we begin to live into our networked relationship. In Advent, our readings remind us of another pilgrimage, the pilgrimage that the people of Israel made from exile in Babylon back to the land of their heritage. For some of us in the mainline church, it has felt a little like exile in the past decade, as the place of the church in our society has changed and religion has become peripheral in an increasing number of people’s lives. We don’t know where our pilgrimage will lead us, but we trust that God has called us and is with us.
This Advent we also remember others who are pilgrims, the refugees fleeing Syria and other places torn by war and violence, and we will reach out in concrete ways to support them. And finally, as we approach Christmas, we will remember Mary and Joseph on pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where they will discover God’s promises made new in the birth of Jesus.
As we begin to know ourselves as pilgrims, and begin the pilgrimage, I invite you to pray this collect: God of Journeys, as you led and nourished your ancient people through the wilderness, give us the courage to set off on pilgrimage to seek the forms and styles of life and ministry you have prepared for us. You call us to leave familiar things and leave our “comfort zone.” Guide our footsteps, open our eyes to new experiences, open our ears to hear you speaking to us, touch our imaginations, and clear our vision that we may become the people you would have us to be. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who travels always with us. Amen.