January 22, 2021
Looking Ahead to Lent - 3
Two weeks ago I suggested that a Lenten journey could be one of following Jesus from place to place in the Gospel stories. Last week I offered the possibility of our walking a pathway, and specifically exploring a garden pathway of some sort.
As I imagine other possibilities, other pathways that could help to guide the journey toward Easter, one of them would be to use the idea of a pilgrimage. I envision this being one that would be literal, in the sense of helping people to views places and sights that might inform and inspire them, but also an internal pilgrimage that would be the center of their personal Lenten journey.
One place to make such a pilgrimage would be along the Via Dolorosa, the pathway that is equated with the walk that Jesus made toward the place of the crucifixion. When I walked a portion of it years ago, I was fascinated by the sights along the way, many of them being simply the ordinary shops and door fronts of that part of the city of Jerusalem. Of course, the deeper experience for me involved trying to envision Jesus having walked these same streets, of imagining what he was going through as he did so. The use of photographs, or of artifacts you may have from having visited yourself, will enhance this pilgrimage, and others as well.
Other places one could virtually visit on a pilgrimage are certainly without number. I have never been to Italy, but to visit various churches, to engage in viewing the artwork of those churches, to tell the stories of people who created the artwork or who experienced significant moments in the churches, could lead to fruitful reflection.
I did have the joy of visiting England years ago, and to make a similar pilgrimage there would offer many possibilities. To walk the cloisters of Abbeys or Cathedrals, to hear the singing in such places, to view the ornate stone carvings that grace most Cathedrals, would help to bring to life the pilgrimage on which you take your people.
If you have a congregation where people come from various parts of the world, you might invite submissions of photographs from them which depict places of reverence and beauty and meaning in their native countries. This could become a pilgrimage that not only leads to Easter, but one which brings your people closer together as they see and appreciate the larger life of one another.
As you prepare for such a journey, as you perhaps plan a pilgrimage of sorts for your people, one movie that offers insight into this theme is entitled, “The Way.” It is a story that begins with loss and pain, then evolves into the journey of the main character walking the “El Camino de Santiago,” and shows the depth of spiritual experience of this individual along the way. This is a movie that you could include in your own preparations for the season, and something that you could perhaps share with your congregation either via clips from the movie (remembering copyright issues) or through descriptions of the journey in sermons or via other means. Here again, photos of the “El Camino de Santiago” could enhance any portions of the story that you might share.
There is a sense in which the world is engaged in a collective journey as we deal with the pandemic and its impacts on all of us. To take that journey, that has so many negatives about it, and to move people toward a positive pilgrimage that brings us to Easter, may be a source of hope, of deep reflection, and even of joy.
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