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Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking of...read more

 

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Entries in pilgrimage (1)

Monday
Aug312015

WE ARE A PEOPLE ON THE WAY: WALKING TO BETHLEHEM FOR CHRISTMAS

Pilgrimage is one of the most ancient ‘paths’ of faith expression.  Ancient Jews who had been strewn around the ancient world often made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple on high holy days.  Muslims are to make the Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.  And Christians are well known for making pilgrimages to holy sites scattered all around the world.  Until the 19th century, these pilgrimages were made slowly, on foot.  A pilgrimage was not a vacation, but a holy trek of the faithful to a “thin place” where they might find God’s presence.

Unfortunately, for us, the ancient sense of pilgrimage has been mostly lost.  As Protestants, we usually leave such things up to others, such as the Roman Catholics or Greek Orthodox Christians.  Some of us may make a trek to see the homestead of Alexander Campbell in Bethany, West Virginia, but its likely to be out of historical interest, not seeking a religious experience.  And as denizens of the twenty-first century we’re entirely accustomed to traveling at high speed.  We could hop an international flight today, be in Jerusalem tomorrow, take a bus around Israel and Palestine to hit the tourist trap highlights and be back to work the following Monday saying that we’ve made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  However, in its ancient experience, pilgrimage is equally about the time on voyage as it is about arriving at the destination.

There is a place, however, where people still take a long pilgrimage on foot.  It’s called the Camino de Santiago (translated as Way of St. James)—it’s an ancient pilgrimage route that has starting points all around Europe and North Africa, but the primary trail winds across northern Spain, beginning in Roncevalles on the border of France in the Pyrenees, and ending near the Atlantic coast at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Interest in this ancient pilgrimage route ebbed for centuries, but in recent years it has seen a sudden increase in interest. In 1985 less that 1,000 people made the 500 mile trek—in recent years 200,000 or more have completed the route.

On foot, the 500 mile Camino, at 20 miles per day, takes about a month to walk, one way.  And many pilgrims will walk the Camino “there and back”—1,000 miles.  That’s up to two months of walking.  One way or two ways, that’s a lot of walking!  That’s also a lot of time to think, to pray, to clear your mind, to experience the elements of nature in all their fury and grandeur, and to connect with other pilgrims on the way.  That’s what pilgrimage is about.

Starting Sunday, September 27, we will be making our own imaginary three month pilgrimage—a walk from Baton Rouge to Bethlehem for Christmas.  On the one hand, this is a congregation wide effort to inspire us to include more physical activity in our daily lives.  Everyone, young and old, is encouraged to participate—we will keep a running tally of our miles, while we explore spaces and places along the way.  We will accrue our miles by any kind of activity that gets us up and moving whether that’s walking, jogging, vacuuming our home, mowing the law, going to the gym, etc.  Hopefully by the time Christmas arrives we will have seen some of the health benefits that regular exercise and activity can bring. 

But, on the other hand, like those who make extended pilgrimage on foot, this is also intended to be a spiritual pilgrimage we make to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child.  There will be weekly prayers that we might recite on a daily walk, questions for reflection along the way, and, hopefully, a greater sense of God’s presence in our life’s journey.  

We are now signing up those who wish to join in the Walk to Bethlehem for Christmas—there will be a sign-up sheet in the narthex or, your can email Brenda at churchoffice@fccbrla.org to sign up.  We will have some materials to give to you closer to September 27th, and you will receive weekly devotional and reminder to send in your mileage.  And we’ll look for opportunities to do some walking together.  You won’t be pressured to buy a gym membership or an expensive pair of sneakers or anything like that—you can complete your miles at your own pace.  If you have questions about the Walk to Bethlehem for Christmas, please speak to Pastor DavidWe will also have a movie viewing of a movie called “The Way”, starring Martin Sheen, about some pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago at 3pm on September 27th in the sanctuary.  I hope this movie will open our eyes and minds to the myths and realities of making a pilgrimage.  Tracy Shaffer will lead a discussion following the movie.  Parents, please be aware that the movie does have some content that may not be appropriate for children under 13 years-old.

As the crow flies, or a major airline carrier, Baton Rouge is about 6,900 miles from Bethlehem.  But we won’t be going direct (and we won’t try to walk on water across the Atlantic Ocean)—our route will zig-zag a bit to take us along some interesting points where we will learn about the people and places.  And our congregation’s miles will be combined with members of St. Paul Lutheran who are joining us for the walk, so we’re not walking alone.  I look forward to peddling my way toward Bethlehem, and I hope to visit with you along the way too!

I close with the greeting to pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago—

Buen camino!

Rev. Dr. David Chisham