On the horizon

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Pilgrimage.

This blog began with a pilgrimage almost seven years ago now.  I walked from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh, PA, while learning the Gospel of John by heart….a journey of more than 300 miles.  When I returned, I began to reflect on the journey by posting on this blog (here are my reflections) not only to tell stories about the physical journey, but to write about the parallel inner journey of the soul. Few pilgrims return the same, and, yes, the journey changed me.

A second pilgrimage is on the horizon.

The physical part will be backpacking 500+ miles on the Appalachian trail through the state of Virginia.  The spiritual renewal part is a pilgrimage through the Book of Psalms three times.

A great gift is that, in my congregation (as well as others), a pastor is granted a sabbatical for renewal and education every seventh year of serving in one congregation.  I am in my fourteenth year of serving at St. Paul Lutheran in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, and, as before when I started this blog, I am choosing to spend much of my sabbatical time this coming year on yet another pilgrimage. Backpacking for this many miles and this length of time (two months on the trail) is a new thing for me. Reading/praying/singing through the Psalter (all 150 psalms) each of the three months is also a new thing for me.  To do  the latter, I will pause five times a day, wherever I am, to reflect on a different psalm:  daybreak, mid-morning, noon, afternoon and evening—patterned after what some call the “prayer offices” or “liturgy of hours.”  To do the former, the physical training must get serious. Target date to start the trail is May 1, 2015—less than 4 and 1/2 months away.  I have been hiking a couple of times a month, but now more frequent  and serious walking with a pack is needed—much of it in the dead of winter.

What am I seeking by going on a pilgrimage?

That is a question pilgrims are often asked, and the reasons are often as varied as the number of pilgrims who will answer.  Perhaps I can answer that question for myself in another post. Tonight I watched a television program, part of series done by  Bruce Feilor for PBS entitled “Sacred Journeys.”  Tonight’s episode traced the journeys of pilgrims on the 750 mile journey to 88 temples around the Japanese island of Shikoku.  What are they seeking?  What do they learn from being pilgrims?  The answers revealed in this episode are  interesting.  I was interested in how the practice of pilgrimage transcends religious lines. I found myself identifying from my first experience on a very Christian-oriented pilgrimage with much of what was being said on this program.  If you can spare an hour, for the next week or so the “Sacred Journey” episode can be found here.