To Be A Pilgrim – Br. Jim Woodrum

The other day when I was thinking about what I might preach on today, I kept getting distracted by memories from grade school when we learned about the first Thanksgiving. We would study the story about how the Indians showed the pilgrims how to plant corn and how the pilgrims when they had such a successful crop the following year, invited the Indians to a feast which became known as the first Thanksgiving. This study was usually accompanied by arts and crafts where we made Native American head dresses and pilgrims’ hats and put on a pageant about Thanksgiving for our families, complete with musical numbers and of course an occasional wave to grandma in the audience.

But before that first Thanksgiving feast ever took place there was a pilgrimage that these English people undertook (the word pilgrim meaning ‘one who travels in a foreign land’). They left England to escape religious persecution, traveling to Holland before actually sailing across the ocean and landing in a rough terrain here in the United States.

We Brothers were recently blessed by a visit from a group of homeless pilgrims from Boston who departed from the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked over 60 miles in 4 days to Emery House. I got to walk the final 10 miles with them from Haverill to West Newbury. It wasn’t easy, as you can imagine….the shoulder of the road where we were walking would occasionally get very narrow, putting us dangerously close to speeding cars. We endured hecklers as well as some well wishers, but other than some sore feet and blisters, we all arrived safely. I was amazed to learn that the previous day they had walked twice the mileage that I walked with them on the last day.

I believe that the image of pilgrimage is an appropriate metaphor for the journey we are all on through this life. We’re all pilgrims coming from somewhere and hoping to find our way to a better place. Today’s scriptures certainly have something to offer us all, no matter where we may be on our journey. The prophet Joel says: “O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing-floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.” He continues, “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” It sounds to me like he is speaking to people who have been through a great ordeal and are about to find themselves on the other side. Maybe you can identify. If so, as you come later to receive the bread and wine, offer that to God with a thankful heart.

If you find yourself lost right now and in need of a GPS you might pray the prayer of the Psalmist today: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev. Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.” If you’re not quite sure which road to take, make that your prayer and offer it to God and know you’re not alone.

Maybe at this point in your journey you are filled with fear and are worrying about where you will wind up. Take comfort in the words of Jesus, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these . . . . Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ and ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If you have fear of the future, fear of being alone, or fear of failure, then make it your Thanksgiving offering to Jesus. Mahatma Gandhi once said “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet.”

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  1. Lea on July 16, 2017 at 10:00

    .What beautiful and feeding words

  2. Harriet on July 16, 2017 at 09:56

    I am learning to turn my fears over to Jesus…Thank you for inspiration to do just that!

  3. Faith Turner on July 16, 2016 at 19:50

    This is what I needed to hear today. All the unrest in the world…election fever.. and my house phone is not working. Many calls around the world to Comcast. On Monday they are coming to see about it. We need to be able to talk to other human beings. And not on our phone alone…even tho I love the pictures and SSJE postings in email! Praying and counting my blessings help a lot, as well as looking at Nature and petting animals! So glad you wrote this today.

  4. Polly Chatfield on July 15, 2016 at 10:41

    Thank you, Jim, for those steadying words. I have always love the hymn “To Be A Pilgrim” and hope to have people sing it at my funeral. There are times when my pilgrimage has been just putting one foot after the other, and other times when the journey has been a delight; but either way I have felt it a gift to have the realization that I am a pilgrim, for a pilgrim has a known destination. How blest to be headed toward God!

    • Christina on July 16, 2017 at 08:37

      The road for a pilgrim and for immigrants is a hard one That’s why I struggle with those who want to shut our doors to those in search of a better life. I remind myself constantly that, we were all newcomers to this great continent: refugees or immigrants.(Or our forbears were.) Many are here to leave behind the old life, sadly, and in the hope that their new place will be better for them. Christina

  5. Elizabeth Hardy on July 15, 2016 at 08:40

    Br Jim November 22nd is my birthday, so I thought this message might be special. And today I find myself filled with fear and uncertain about my future. I feel so alone and afraid. I feel like there is nothing left in life for me. So, as I suspected the message was special for me today. Thanks be to God. And thank you.

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  7. Jerome Berkeley on December 6, 2012 at 10:15

    Eloquent reminder of a foundational truth of faith, Br. Jim, particularly for anyone given to worry and angst. I am reminded of the great composer and bassist Charles Mingus, who pointed out that in music, there are no errors. If one’s ears are sufficiently open, the errors can actually be a blessing – and lead to a creative road. “The mistakes don’t matter, it is what you make of them.”

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