I traveled to ancient Iona to find a touchstone for the second half of my ministry. After 20 years in the local church, I was focusing on the New Ministries house church initiative that I was giving three years. At year two, I could see what was working but also what was falling short. Some of the direction I’d like to take things didn’t seem very possible, as changes at the Conference level had decreased the support we needed. I had come to Iona for direction and vision to take back with me. I had come to hear God’s direction, as I have long grown weary of my own.
We find ourselves in a time where we talk about “being on mission.” Lots of books and conferences lift up this missional focus. I do believe we are to be missional. But for us as United Methodists it is not news. John Wesley taught us the importance of a faith lived both in contact with God and with the world’s needs. I do believe mission matters, but after this week I wonder if the deeper call isn’t to mission but to pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage is about trusting God to guide the way forward while mission is about knowing the direction.
Pilgrimage is about waiting on God for direction but mission works at moving the kingdom forward.
Pilgrims lift their faces toward God’s light, opening their heart to God’s presence, mission puts it boots on and gets busy.
One of my favorite Message translations of the scripture is, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14) Here in these startling words we hear of a pilgrim God who comes among us in flesh and blood. Does our God calls us to be a pilgrim people as we are a missional people? Might it be in this season of change that before we are able to do the work God needs us to do, we must come before God as pilgrimages?
My sense is that while there is much we do know, the times in which we live call us to admit there is much we do not know. What did work no longer works. How we used to as churches no longer speaks to many. And instead of freaking out, we need to listen, to be still, to wait upon the Lord.
Maybe the season God is calling us to is a season of being pilgrims where instead of knowing the way we let the Holy Spirit surprise us. Instead of conferences and programs, we heed the call to prayer, to silence, to searching the scriptures and to trusting that God will provide the way. Pilgrimage invites us outside of our usual routine and invites us into possibilities. Pilgrimage brings resurrection.
Next: Iona Six (last week)