A bishop once told me the story of her walking pilgrimage through France and Spain. “I almost died in the mountains of France. It was snowing and sleeting. My feet were torn with blisters. I was so tired and sore. I stopped, freezing, wet and in pain, and collapsed on the side of the trail, ready to die.” She did not die of course. Instead, other pilgrims and people along the way gave her warmth, comfort, food, healing, prayer and love.
Every story of pilgrimage passes through pain, suffering and struggle. Yet, when we travel as pilgrims, what we inevitably find is love. We find that pilgrimage can only be accomplished with the love and support of others. When our shoes break and there is no space at the pilgrims’ hostel, we find a kind soul who knows of rooms we can use just down the street. When we are thirsty, someone offers water. When we are hungry, we find generous hospitality around a table.
When you give your heart to Jesus, trusting in his teaching and his life, you put yourself on the pilgrim’s path. As a follower of Jesus you will encounter struggles, conflicts, and disappointments. Jesus knew that this was true and would remain true through the ages. Jesus knew that the pilgrims that followed in his footsteps would need strength for the journey and so he gave us the Eucharist.
At the Last Supper Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and gave it to his friends saying, “Take, eat… Drink this. All of you…” The sharing of bread and wine is a central practice of Christians given directly by Jesus. The communion meal of Jesus’ body and blood binds us together in love and in caring for one another. When we gather at the Lord’s Table to share the bread and wine, we are strengthened and encouraged.
Our mission statement declares that we seek to provide a welcoming environment where individuals can come together to walk in Christ’s love and forgiveness through worship, prayer and service to the community. Living into this mission and working to accomplish this mission we become pilgrims. Even as we face our own struggles, we are working to aid and bless other pilgrims on their own journeys.
Sharing in the Eucharist as we worship together is both a primary way of being pilgrims and it gives us strength for the journey. We share communion together because we want to be pilgrims and because as pilgrims, we need strength for the journey. We invite others to share Eucharist with us because we want to encourage, bless and comfort fellow pilgrims.
Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall
P.S. I find myself struggling this week with the news of and the reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. A dear friend shared a quote that seems greatly appropriate today. Versions of this quote have been spreading around the internet as being attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. The quote does include a reference to MLK Jr. but the original quote comes from Jessica Dovey, a recent Penn State grad living in Kobe, Japan, who posted this as her Facebook status:
I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.