By Deacon Mary
This summer I will be one of those making the Pilgrimage on the Way of St James.
A pilgrimage is defined as a devotional practice consisting of a prolonged journey toward a specific destination of significance. It is an inherently transient experience, removing the participant from his or her home environment and identity. The act, however performed, blends the physical and the spiritual into a unified experience. For me, Lent fulfills that definition of pilgrimage: the destination is closeness with God, it lasts 40 days. I’m removed from my home environment and identify by fasting that which is common to me, so the journey is both physical and spiritual.
The daily Lenten devotionals from Nashotah House Seminary this year are on the theme of pilgrimage and this pilgrim is finding them helpful on my Lenten pilgrimage. I would like to share one that has been particularly meaningful to me.
The Context of our Pilgrimage
This is the joy of our pilgrimage: that the truest thing about us is that because we have died with Christ we will be raised with him. In contrast to Mark Twain’s adage, life is not “one damn thing after another” but a history that is going somewhere. And that somewhere is where Jesus has gone before us for the sake of taking us with him.
Adapted from the daily Lenten devotionals of The Chapter, Nashotah House
We can often spot the connection among the daily passages assigned in the lectionary for our Sunday readings On the first Sunday of Lent, the connection between Psalm 91 and Luke 4 is clear but admittedly strange: Psalm 91 is quoted directly, but by the devil.
Luke tells us that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The three temptations take the form of verbal sparring matches between Jesus and the devil over the correct use of Scripture. In each temptation the devil brings to mind a passage of Scripture, to which Jesus responds with another one. It is within this form that we find the odd connection between Psalm 91 and Luke 4. The devil tells Jesus to throw himself off of the pinnacle of the temple saying, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you.” Jesus responds, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
If we read Psalm 91 with Jesus’s life in mind, the connection becomes even stranger.
According to the Psalmist, if one makes the Lord their refugee and dwelling place, no evil will befall them (v10), the Lord will deliver them (v14), when they call on the Lord he will answer them (v15a), when they are in trouble the Lord will rescue and honor them (v15b), and the Lord will satisfy them with long life (v16). But we know that the Lord does not rescue Jesus from trouble, that evil does befall him, and that the Lord does not satisfy Jesus with long life. In fact, Jesus was handed over to his death “by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23); it was God’s will that he be crucified. Which is why Jesus refutes each of the devil’s uses of Scripture. Jesus was about his Father’s business, and that business was his death.
The theme of this Lenten devotional series is “The Joy of Pilgrimage.” If our pilgrimage is to be conformed to the pilgrimage of our Lord Jesus Christ, then Jesus’s life sets the context of our pilgrimage. And if Jesus’s life sets the context of our pilgrimage, then our pilgrimage, like Jesus’s, is orientated towards death. If there is joy to be found in our pilgrimage, it is joy in the midst of death. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. And so, the joy of our pilgrimage is the End that breaks into our present time because Jesus’s death was met by the Father’s vindication of him through raising him from the dead. This is the joy of our pilgrimage: that the truest thing about us is that because we have died with Christ we will be raised with him. In contrast to Mark Twain’s adage, life is not “one damn thing after another” but a history that is going somewhere. And that somewhere is where Jesus has gone before us for the sake of taking us with him.
By Tyler Been, a senior student at Nashotah House Seminary and is an aspirant in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.