true pilgrims

24 May

Havering on the Way_4

Jack: Now this, this, is a true pilgrim experience.
Sarah: True pilgrim experience. What do you mean by that?
Jack: Well, I’m talking about tradition in the purest sense. A true pilgrim walks the camino with nothing. He has to live off the land. He has to receive the kindness presented to him. And he has to carry his goods on his back. The pilgrim is poor and must suffer.
Sarah: That seems a bit extreme to say that to be a true pilgrim we have to imitate what we like to think a true pilgrim is. Should a pilgrim dress himself as a beggar even if he isn’t? Do we honor the poor by imitating them? I don’t think that pilgrims 500 years ago ignored the creature comforts of the road any more than we should now.
Joost: Yeah, and what about pilgrims on bikes? Or pilgrims that do the camino on horseback?
Jack: No, tradition would dismiss bikers at least. Biking or riding requires less suffering and less work.
Sarah: But I don’t think we have to artificially add more hardship than is already there – that is, in my opinion, is being a false pilgrim, not a true pilgrim.
Jack: If you were a man, I would challenge you to pistols at dawn.  ~ The Way, chapter 9

In boxed Christianity we often sit around asking how we can make disciples.

What’s the key?

What’s the trick?

And what, we ask, really is a disciple?

And we come up with many bright ideas: classes that teach about discipleship, retreats that beat the drum of discipleship and challenge us to make the decision to follow Jesus, sermons that define discipleship, small groups that meet once a week for an hour to talk about Jesus and discipleship.

Jesus simply walked with twelve guys for a year – or more. And they followed him wherever he went. In other words they simply did it. It’s the difference between watching a travelogue or even a movie like The Way about the Camino de Santiago and actually walking it.

As Dallas Willard makes the point in his book The Divine Conspiracy, we keep looking for the results Jesus achieved while paying no attention to the methods he employed.

I would characterize the Protestant churches I’ve grown up and worked in these decades as predominantly educational, informational boxes. We teach doctrine in classes to orderly rows of students. Powerpoint. Visuals. Chalkboards. Whiteboards. Handouts. And a movie, if its one of my classes. And if you are really lucky a fun kinetic exercise or two.

In a society built on such an informational, compartmentalized model, what else can we do?

How do you walk as Jesus walked in a culture that doesn’t have the time even to take a walk? Oh sure. People in our society walk, jog and run. But usually alone or perhaps in pairs, and generally unplugged from their surroundings with noise canceling headphones or earbuds. But just try coordinating the schedules of twelve people to take a walk together – unless it’s one big annual event. It can be a nearly impossible feat. Or feet. Especially if we don’t even know how long the walk will take or where we are ultimately going.

But then, do we really have to walk as Jesus walked by, you know, taking a really long walk with other people? Maybe that was just a Jesus thing for that time and place, and now we build church boxes and throw top notch events that will surely accomplish the same thing. Right?

This, of course, would be the point to ask, “So, how is that working for you?”

But then we come to Acts. We come to the Way in Acts. What is Acts but a series of very long walks – three of them by Paul in what we call his “missionary journeys”? Should that surprise us in a book that calls Christianity “the Way,” the Journey, the Road? Wouldn’t it be odd to call it the Road if they never really hit the Road together like Jesus did with those friends for whom he would lay down his life?

I wish I had more answers here than questions.

I just know that the Way is more about pilgrimage than it is about this place or that. And we Protestants, for the most part, suck at pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a lost art and discipline among us, so how can we ever hope to grasp and live out life together as pilgrimage?

Perhaps that’s the first baby step. Get out of our domestic and religious boxes, our sanctuaries, our classrooms, our retreat centers for just a moment and let’s take a long walk with some friends, just long enough to start hating each other, to start getting on each other’s nerves. Maybe it’s just a morning or afternoon at first, or a day. If we are bold maybe it’s overnight. What if we got out and actually walked together? What if we allowed ourselves to see one another sweating or perhaps swearing over a stubbed toe? What if we allowed ourselves to be tired together, thirsty together, hungry together, and then rejoice together over that meal that becomes true communion as we celebrate and break the Bread of Life together? And if we are really ambitious, what if we allowed ourselves to see one another as we are at the first light of dawn, unkempt and raw?

True pilgrims. For a day. Or two.

Maybe that’s our first baby step on the Way.

Buen Camino.


Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Church, musings


Tags: , ,

3 responses to “true pilgrims

  1. Randall

    May 24, 2012 at 4:24 am

    I will walk with you anywhere, anytime, Pastor. Just say the word.
    And Buen Camino to you, too.

  2. wordhaver

    May 24, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Bless you, Randall! Looking forward to experiencing mass with you this weekend. Not technically walking, but definitely a piece of the Road we are walking together.

  3. Randall

    May 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Indeed, more kneeling than walking, but it certainly is on the Way.


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