A Daily Pilgrimage of Faith

Written by: Pr. Kristen Van Stee

During my lifetime, I have been extremely fortunate that I have been able to travel to some truly wonderful far away places. Iceland, Nicaragua, and Argentina were all beautiful and life-changing in many ways. But still on my bucket list that I have yet to cross off is a trip to the Holy Land. Perhaps it’s on your travel bucket list too? I certainly have heard many of my own parishioners talk longingly of wanting to go; how wonderful it would be to see the same landscape that Jesus saw, walk in his footsteps, and pray in his tomb. If you have felt that way yourself, you are in good company. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a very old tradition, dating back to the very first centuries of Christianity. And despite all sorts of hardships over the last two thousand years (war, politics, plague, natural disaster), faithful pilgrims have persisted in finding creative ways to make it there and back again, usually with some kind of holy relic in hand (dust from the tomb used to be a popular holy souvenir!).

Where does this impulse come from? Christians know that Christ is risen and ascended. We won’t find Jesus in Jerusalem any more so than we will find him in Omaha, Nebraska. But I think all the faithful over the ages have looked for ways to feel close to God. We long to feel a connection beyond the words of our Bibles. We all desire to walk in Christ’s footsteps and see the world through his eyes. We all want to be able to hang onto something, a physical embodiment of the faith that the Holy Spirit has kindled in our hearts. “Taste and see, the goodness of God” we sing as we commune on the Body and Blood of Christ in worship.

This is why I am so grateful for our Christian calendar. Even if we are never able to make a real journey to the Holy Land one day, we are all on a pilgrimage of faith, following in Jesus’ footsteps through the wilderness and to the cross. Together through the Season of Epiphany we heard the stories of Jesus’ ministry and we walked alongside the disciples from village to village across Galilee. Through Lent and Holy Week we journeyed with Christ to his crucifixion and death. Now during this glorious fifty days of the season of Easter, we journey with the disciples as they travel far and wide, sharing the good news of Christ’s resurrection.

The rituals of our worship during the liturgical year are important, not because they earn us salvation (they don’t!) but because we humans crave ways to connect to God. God is with us always, in our daily lives, in the boring and ordinary rituals of work and home. But when we engage in rituals of prayer, song, worship, alms-giving, faith-testimony, etc…I think we are suddenly more attentive to God’s presence who has been with us the whole time.

You may or may not make it to the Holy Land in your life. While many Christians over the last two thousand years have made the trip, consider that the vast majority of the faithful Christians who have ever lived were never able to make a pilgrimage trip. But my prayer for you during these seasons of Easter and Pentecost is that you notice how you are already on a pilgrimage of faith. Every day we rise in prayer and encounter the risen Christ in the face of our neighbors. Every day is yet another step on our pilgrimage…not to the Holy Land, but to encounter the Holy One in our daily life. May the Spirit give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear Christ among us now. Amen!