John Morrison – 30 April 2017

What a privilege was theirs! As they retraced their steps back to Emmaus after their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus joined them and journeyed with them. As they walked together, he taught them and their hearts burned within them. As they ate together, he revealed his identity to them and they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their friends the joyous news.

Their experience of the risen Christ was unique. Nevertheless, we too are privileged in related ways. Jesus joins us on the road and journeys with us. Jesus teaches us. And as we enjoy fellowship with Jesus, we come to understand more about him. The difference for us is that Jesus relates to us through his Spirit rather than bodily.

The metaphors of pilgrimage and journey are familiar ones for us. They are very Biblical. For centuries prior to Jesus, Jewish pilgrims would sing pilgrimage songs on their way to Jerusalem. Psalms 120-134 comprise a collection of such songs known as the Psalms of Ascent. I particularly like Psalm 128:1-2.

“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.”

A more recent song that expresses similar ideas is “Trust and Obey” (hymn 548), especially verse 1 and the chorus.

In her book “Christianity for the Rest of Us”, Diana Butler Bass refers to M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Village” in which a group of people escapes the contemporary world’s chaos by constructing an alternative community completely separated from the rest of society. It is protected by strict and unvarying rules and customs based on the model of a 19th Century pioneer town. In a moment of crisis, the town elders realise they must send someone out of the village in order to save what they most value. They choose a blind girl, so that she might not see and be contaminated by the world. Her journey is terrifying, but she eventually discovers that love, salvation and redemption lay only outside the walls and in risking the unknown.

Bass writes: “What if the story is not just the journey of a single blind girl?… What if the whole village went on a journey to see? On my journey, I travelled with those who are more comfortable in the wilderness, people who are willing to explore the new terrain around them. Yet they did not travel alone. I found that in the breakdown of old villages, Christians are forming a different sort of village in congregations around the country. Not spiritual gated communities or protected rural villages. Rather, their new kind of village is a pilgrim community embarked on a journey of rediscovering Christianity, where people can forge new faith ties in a frightening and fragmented world. For those I met, change was not always easy, and their churches were not perfect. But they embodied courage, creativity, and imagination. And risk.”

Blessings on your journey, pilgrims. Remember the risen Lord walks with you.