"From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth . . . so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God, though indeed God is not far from each one of us." ~ Acts 17:26-27
As many of you will remember, back in the spring – so long ago! I undertook some study leave: Two different courses in February and April. The first was all about transformation through conflict – a strange concept, but one which gave me some very helpful and interesting insights, and the second one was about being a pilgrim: a traveller moving from one place to another; either physically or spiritually. It was about travelling to the Holy Land – Palestine / Israel; but it was also about travelling within yourself to discover more about God: for we are all pilgrims, even though we will not all travel to the Holy Land.
Some of the journeys we make are completely life-changing: as we make discoveries, or encounter new things, new people, new places, new situations our view of the world changes; our place in the world changes; and who we are changes as we encounter God in the most unexpected corners of life.
During the course, Ruth our speaker, told us about a journey she had made to Jerusalem and the holy places, with a group of total strangers. She quoted from the book she had written. She took us with her, not into Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Galilee, but rather into an encounter with God. And although we did not travel out of the conference room in Edinburgh – we felt that we had journeyed long and hard during those four days, Ruth used some interesting and often challenging quotes through the different sessions.
“A pilgrim is open to where the Spirit leads...even if that’s uncomfortable...”
The words of the Psalm remind us of this:
It describes times, places and situations which are frightening and difficult- but assures those who listen that in all these things – God is there.
And the psalmist responds, by praising God!
Thus when we too journey into the unknown we are reminded that:
“A pilgrim has the opportunity to brush against the presence of the Divine.”
Being in God’s presence – in the presence of the divine can happen in so many different ways: up on a mountaintop, down by the sea, in the beauty of a new born child, in the holiness of holding the hand of a beloved one who struggles.
And, for me in recent times, in the holy moments of grief and death.
In all of these different times and places, I am sure each of you has your own story to tell, your own experience of discovering God, when you least expected it, for,
“What you expect to happen on a spiritual journey will not happen.”
The psalmist concludes his journey into difficulty and out the other side with a pilgrim statement:
Trust in the Lord. Have faith and do not despair. Trust in the Lord.
So we too travel;
through sickness and health;
through success and failure;
through hard times and good, knowing that it may be hard or painful or confusing or distressing, but in it all, we are never alone.
For God travels the road with us, sending other pilgrim travellers to shine the light, and share the load