The Pilgrimage of the Magi 

“Pilgrimage to the place of the wise is to find escape from the flame of separateness.” 

Rumi 

POWER TRUTH 

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

Matthew 18:18 NRSV 

 Three Kings

The biblical Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, were famous foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, according to the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition. They appear frequently in traditional narratives of Christmas nativity festivities and are vital to Christian tradition. The Magi are only mentioned in Matthew, one of the four canonical gospels. According to Matthew, they came “from the east” to worship the “king of the Jews.” The number of Magi is never mentioned in the gospel, but most western Christian denominations have generally concluded they were three, based on the assertion that they brought three presents. The Magi are frequently twelve in Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syriac churches. Their recognition as kings in later Christian writings is most likely related to Psalm 72:11, “May all kings fall down before him.”

Traditional nativity scenes show three “Wise Men” visiting the infant Jesus in a manger on the night of his birth, accompanied by shepherds and angels, but this should be interpreted as an artistic convention that allows the two separate scenes of the Adoration of the Shepherds on the birth night and the later Adoration of the Magi to be combined for convenience.

The Three Wise Men

The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latin magus, borrowed from the Greek magos, as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (in the plural: magoi). Greek magos is derived from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan magâunô, i.e., the religious caste Zoroaster was born into. The term refers to the Persian priestly caste of Zoroastrianism.

            As part of their faith, these priests paid special attention to the stars and established an international reputation for astrology, considered science at the time. Because of their religious activities and use of astrology, derivatives of the term Magi were used for the occult in general, giving rise to the English term magic, even though Zoroastrianism was firmly opposed to sorcery. Although the Magi are usually referred to as “kings,” there is nothing in Matthew’s story that suggests they were rulers of any kind. Early readers understood Matthew in light of these prophecies, elevating the Magi to the status of kings. By AD 500, all commentators had accepted the widely held belief that the three were monarchs.

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Gathering the Nations 

Bringing the People Together

“I have come to gather nations,” the prophecy begins. While it might be argued that the prophecy primarily refers to gathering the scattered Israelites, it could also refer to the nations themselves, the Gentiles. (The word here is goyim, which translates as “Gentiles” or “nations,” not “Jews.”) The goal of God’s plan of redemption is to bring all peoples together to worship him, to bless “all the families of the earth.” As at a pilgrim feast, the Gentiles are brought to Jerusalem to partake in God’s worship. The Lord declares in the prophecy that he will collect the nations and send “fugitives” to them to broadcast his “glory among the nations.”

These “escapees” or “survivors” have survived national persecution and God’s judgment. They resemble the earliest Christian missionaries, such as Paul, who traveled the world proclaiming the Gospel message. These missionaries’ task is to bring in a “harvest” of Gentiles and bring them to the Lord in Jerusalem. While making an offering to Jerusalem is primarily symbolic of our purposes, St. Paul took it very seriously. When he traveled over the Roman realm preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, he also collected money from the Gentiles to give to the Christians in Jerusalem.

A River in the Desert 

In Isaiah 41, the prophet likens the pilgrimage to a search for water in the desert: 

“The poor and needy search for water, 

    but there is none; 

    their tongues are parched with thirst. 

But I the Lord will answer them; 

    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, 

    and springs within the valleys. 

I will turn the desert into pools of water, 

    and the parched ground into springs. 

I will put in the desert 

    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. 

I will set junipers in the wasteland, 

    the fir and the cypress together, 

so that people may see and know, 

    may consider and understand, 

that the hand of the Lord has done this, 

    that the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Isa. 41:17-20)

This imagery is echoed in Psalm 84, written for the director of music: 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, 

    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 

As they pass through the Valley of Baka, 

    they make it a place of springs; 

    the autumn rains also cover it with pools (Psa. 84:5-6)

A Highway in the Wilderness 

Another metaphor that Isaiah uses to show God’s favor toward His pilgrims is that of the highway in the wilderness, a voice of one calling, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isa. 40:3)

Isaiah is more explicit in Chapter 3: 

And a highway will be there; 

    it will be called the Way of Holiness; 

    it will be for those who walk on that Way. 

The unclean will not journey on it; 

    wicked fools will not go about on it. (Isa. 35:8)

We see these words of the prophet echoed in the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of John, when John replied to the priests and Levites sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (Jn. 1:23)

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Metaphoric Pilgrimages 

“Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.” 

Sivananda 

POWER TRUTH 

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath. 

John 3:36 NRSV 

Apart from the literal pilgrimages in the Bible, the theme of pilgrimage comes up repeatedly metaphorically. The prophet Isaiah explicitly uses the metaphor of the Mountain of the Lord: 

In the last days 

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it. 

Many peoples will come and say, 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore. 

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isa. 2:2-5)

Isaiah: Shakespeare of the Prophets

Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the “Shakespeare of the Prophets” due to his verse’s lyrical and poetic nature. In another passage, he describes the final culmination of God’s plan in terms the Jews would understand – using the metaphor of the pilgrimage feasts. 

As discussed in the previous chapter, the ancient Jews celebrated several holidays by pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple. These feasts, Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot), are related to events in Israel’s history and with agricultural occasions such as harvest.  

During these feasts, Jewish men would come to Jerusalem from around the Holy Land, bringing sacrifices and grain offerings from their farms. They would eat ceremonial meals in the holy city and worship the Lord with special rituals. These feasts would be an excellent time of unity, celebration, and encounter with God. Isaiah uses these pilgrim feasts to portray the end when God will finally gather the redeemed. Here we can see a special connection to the ancient Feast of Booths. Which is also called the Feast of In-Gathering since it is a harvest-time feast, a time when farmers “in-gather” produce (Exo. 23:16). However, the final “in-gathering” that the prophet speaks of is a bringing in of people rather than grain. 

In Isaiah 66, the prophet tells the people: 

“And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory. 

“I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the Lord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels. And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the Lord.” (Isa. 66:18-21)

 

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The Three Pilgrimages  

The Pilgrimage Festival

The pilgrimage festival is an important type of Jewisessential. In the Hebrew Bible, these three holidays are called “agricultural festivals” and “historical events in the history of the Jewish people.” In biblical times, these three holidays were also when people went to the old Temple in Jerusalem. Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot are the names of these three holidays.

Three holidays

God told the Israelites in the Old Testament, “All your men shall appear three times a year before the Lord your God in the place that God will choose, on the festivals of Pesah (Passover), Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), and Sukkot.” This place was probably the Temple in Jerusalem (the Festival of Booths). They will show up with nothing. Each person will bring a gift that fits the blessings the Lord your God has given you. In this passage, God says that he wants all male Israelites to go to Jerusalem (which is why these festivals are called “pilgrimages”) and have the priest offer the animal sacrifice required for each of them. In this passage, the Torah only talks about men.

This is because, in the past, women did not have the same legal or religious standing as men. Even though this was left out, women had the same religious and spiritual duties as men when it came to making sacrifices for thanksgiving and making up for their sins. When Israel finally moved into the land, God wanted to constantly remind them that they were passing through this world and that He, not the ground, was their proper inheritance. So, the Lord made Jerusalem the place where he was most present on earth and told them to go there three times a year to worship him at thanksgiving feasts like the Passover. Jesus’ public ministry happens against the backdrop of these frequent journeys. The Holy City was already very holy, but Christ’s blood made it even more sacred for all time.

The Three Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals are: 

  • Passover – Celebrates the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, as well as the beginning of the new planting season after the winter rains in Israel, since it falls in the early spring. 

  • Shavuot – Biblically, this is solely an agricultural celebration. Falling exactly seven weeks after Passover, which places it occurs at the time of the late spring harvest.  [Shavuot as a celebration of the giving of the Torah is a post-biblical development.] 

  • Sukkot – Celebrates the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, when they had to rely only upon God for food and protection. This also celebrates the last harvest festival before the onset of the winter rains in the land of Israel. It falls five days after Yom Kippur, usually in mid-autumn. At the conclusion of Sukkot, the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated.

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The Pilgrimage of Moses to Freedom 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. 

Nelson Mandela 

POWER TRUTH 

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 

Galatians 5:1 NRSV 

 

Moses is famous in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, so many of us know his story. For discussion’s sake, though, and especially in the context of Prophetic Pilgrimages, it would be good to review the Exodus in a general way.

The Book of Exodus says that Moses was born at a time when his people, the Israelites, who were a small group of slaves, were growing in number, and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might join with Egypt’s enemies. No one cared about Joseph’s actions to save Egypt from the great famine. When the Pharaoh told all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed, Moses’ Hebrew mother, Jochebed, hid him. He did this because the Pharaoh wanted to reduce the number of Israelites.

Through the Pharaoh’s daughter, who the Midrash calls Queen Bithia, the child was taken in after being found in the Nile river and raised as part of the Egyptian royal family. She named the baby Moses, which means “drawn out of the water” in Hebrew and “son” in Egyptian. This was the first step in God’s plan to end 400 years of slavery for these people. Moses grew up in the palace of the pharaoh. There, he learned to read and write, which prepared him to write the first five books of the Bible. Even though he was happy in the palace, he longed to see his own people as he got older. When he saw an Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew slave, he hit the Egyptian and killed him.

The Start of Moses’ Journey

When the pharaoh found out that Moses had killed the man, he ordered to have Moses killed. Moses ran across the Red Sea to the land of Midian. When he got there, he found seven daughters coming to a well to get water for their father’s flock. Shepherds tried to get them to leave, but Moses stood up for them. After his daughters told him what had happened, he invited Moses to dinner and married off his daughter Zipporah. They had a son, and they named him Gershom, which means “stranger in a foreign land.” Moses became a shepherd in Midian.

One day, as he was taking care of his sheep on Mount Horeb, he met the Angel of the Lord, who spoke to him from a burning bush (which he regarded as the Mountain of God). He told Moses to go back to Egypt and lead his people there. Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and get the Israelites out of Egypt?” God replied, “I AM what I AM. “I AM has sent me to you,” tell the Israelites.

Going Back to Egypt

God told Moses to return to Egypt and ask for the Israelites to be freed from slavery. Moses said he couldn’t speak well, so God gave Moses’s brother Aaron the job of speaking for him. He returned to Egypt to do what God told him to do, but God made the Pharaoh say no. The Pharaoh finally gave in after God sent ten plagues to Egypt. Moreover, Moses led the Israelites to the border of Egypt, but once they were there, God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart again so that he could destroy the Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea Crossing as a sign of his power to Israel and the rest of the world.

No one in Pharaoh’s army made it out alive. When the Israelites saw the dead Egyptian soldiers on the beach and saw how powerful the Lord was against Egypt, they feared the Lord. They had faith in God and in Moses, who was his servant.

The Longest Journey

Finally, after Moses led the Israelites to victory over the Amalekites, who were thought to be the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, Moses led the Israelites on the Exodus, a forty-year journey to freedom. This was to be the end of Abraham’s long journey to the Promised Land, which had begun many years before. During the Exodus, the Lord made it clear that He was the God of the Israelites. He said, “I will make you my own people, and I will be your God.” Then you will know that I am your God, the Lord, who saved you from slavery in Egypt.”

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A Prototype for Faith

An Example of Faith

Abraham was told to leave what he knew best and trust that God would show him a different way. Everyone who comes to God in faith is called to turn away from old ways of living and follow God. God calls us to a commitment to leave sin behind and not return.

Abraham knew where he came from because he was a pilgrim. He left the Chaldean city of Ur with his father, nephew, wife, children, and whatever else he could carry. Furthermore, he left a place where people worshipped things that were not gods. Astrology, superstitions, and honoring a moon goddess have done every day. Even though it would make sense for Abraham to feel sad about leaving his home country, however, he was leaving a spiritual wasteland.

As he walked around Canaan, he would be a stranger in a strange land. His religion was not the same as the native Canaanites’ religion. He didn’t have the same morals as those in Canaan. The people of Canaan didn’t understand why he lived. He lived in tents and never tried to build a house or live in a city. Even though he got along well with the Canaanites, did honest and fair business with them, and was known for his hospitality, he didn’t try to be like them and become one of them. He was happy to be a nomad who moved around and lived in tents and small booths. His family did this for about a hundred years.

Pilgrims move around from one place to the next.

His faith in what God had promised kept him going and helped him be happy. He looked past this life to a city in heaven. He didn’t have to be tied down to this life because of the vision. With his mind on the city in heaven, he was happy to live as a stranger in a tent. He knew God would give him a better inheritance than anything in this sinful world.  The Bible says that Abraham and other men and women of faith were “seeking a country of their own… a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”

Despite not receiving the promise during their lifetimes, they all remained faithful until death. The security of God made them willing to walk around for the rest of their lives. Eventually, they could always go back home because they had their sights set on a better country than the one they were in or had left.

Pilgrims move around from one place to the next. What do we do? We are strangers and travelers on this earth when we become God’s children and citizens of his heavenly kingdom. Like Abraham was said to “dwell in tents,” we understand that even our physical bodies are temporary dwelling places for our spirits.

God is proud of people who keep their faith even when they don’t get what they were promised.

Pilgrims have a place they want to go. Abraham first went to Canaan. Later, when he got there, he kept going to keep looking for the city in heaven. Our pilgrimage today calls us to a life of purity and holiness. Like the English pilgrims who helped settle our country, our language, dress, manner of living, and purpose should be different from that of the world. Following live and act by faith so that, like Abraham, God will one day be happy to acknowledge us in the same way that He did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

On their way, pilgrims sometimes end up in places where people are hostile. As believers, we now live in a land that doesn’t respect our faith and doesn’t want what our hearts desire. We long for the peace and comfort of our Father’s home. The saints are going to a beautiful city in the sky. Abraham was happy to think about where he was going. It was everything to him and helped him get through the trip. We are headed for the same city Abraham sought, built by the hand of God, eternal, in the heavens, reserved for us.

God is proud of people who keep their faith even when they don’t get what they were promised. Moreover, This is because God has something better planned for all of us so that only with us would they be perfect.

As Abraham traveled worldwide, the Lord was his best travel companion. He was with him every step of the way. He liked being close to God and sharing with him. Abraham is an excellent example of a man who lived his whole life based on his faith.

 

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The Pilgrimage of Abraham to the Promised Land

“I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.” 

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

POWER TRUTH 

“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest, and will give you this land.’ 

Joshua 1:13 NRSV 

Abraham, formerly Abram, is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions. In Judaism, he is regarded as the founding father of the covenant of the pieces, the special relationship between the Jewish people and God; in Christianity, he is regarded as the prototype of all believers, Jewish or Gentile; and in Islam, he is viewed as a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and ends with Muhammad.

Abraham’s Pilgrimage

In the book of Genesis, we find the story of how the Lord told Abram to make a pilgrimage to the Promised Land: 

 The Lord told Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. 

I will make you into a great nation 

and I will bless you 

I will make your name great, 

and you will be a blessing, 

I will bless those who bless you, 

and whoever curses you, I will curse, 

and all peoples on earth 

will be blessed through you.” 

            So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.  He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan and arrived there. 

The Foreigner

The term “pilgrimage” derives from the Latin word peregrinus, which means “resident alien” or “foreigner” and can also indicate “to journey over a long distance.” When we think about pilgrimage in the Bible, the first person that comes to mind is Abraham. His pilgrimage was uncommon in modern terms. Most of the holy locations had not yet earned their holy reputations. He lived before most of the world’s main religions were created and was the founder of Judaism. There were no prominent shrines to visit or saints to revere.

Abraham also brought his entire family and everything he owned. He did this because, unlike the modern pilgrim, he had no intention of returning from his journey.

 

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Journeying with a Purpose 

Pilgrim 

            “Pilgrim” comes from the Latin peregrinum, which means “wanderer” It’s a voyage to honor God. Christian pilgrimage is ancient. Once the temple was erected in Jerusalem (ca. 957 B.C. ), all Jewish men were required to attend it for the three major feasts: Pesach (Passover), Shavu’ot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, or Festival of Ingathering), per God’s command in Deuteronomy 16:16-17. On the walk to the Temple, they sang “pilgrim hymns,” Psalms 119-133. Jews still call these feasts “Pilgrimage Festivals” Pagans also perform the pilgrimage. When they worshipped local gods, as in ancient Greece and Rome, pre-Columbian Central and South America, certain portions of old Europe, and the ancient Middle East (Palestine, Syria, and Israel), followers would journey to the god’s shrine to beg for favors, forgiveness, or other religious motives.

The Focus of the Christian Pilgrimage

Our focus is Christian pilgrimage. After the death and resurrection of the Incarnate God and the development of Christianity, Christians yearned to follow in the footsteps of their Savior, His Holy Mother, and His Apostles. Even when millions of Christians were killed for their Faith, the faithful visited the tombs of favored saints, sometimes at the risk of being martyred themselves. Their motivations? They were similar to the pagans, but they knew that they glorified God Himself by honoring God’s saints. Some pilgrimages were made in penance for sin, petitioning for a special blessing, and out of devotion.

As expected, a Christian’s most incredible journey was to the Holy Land. Far from Christian Europe, the trek was intimidating. First, it took years. It was expensive and risky. The highways were full of robbers and killers, and there were brutal deserts to cross. Many pilgrims were hurt or killed. When the traveler returned home, he knew he’d received numerous graces. As penance for sin, religious beliefs require pilgrimages. The sinner had to trek barefoot and in tatters, never staying more than one night in one area, and beg for food along the way. This was no fancy journey to Rome or Jerusalem with air-conditioned accommodations and local food. It was a huge sacrifice that looked terrible in our eyes.

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The True Pilgrimage

Misconception: a pilgrimage is a religious holiday. Pilgrims trek toward God. As we are, we come to God. We contribute our doubts, defects, crises, illnesses, curiosity, adventure, faith, thanksgiving, and Pilgrimage intentions and prayers.

On a Pilgrimage, we meet God in His manifestations.

If you want luxury, perfection, or a vacation, skip the pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a called from God, not a “vacation” from commitments. As Jesus’ disciples, it reminds us of our faith. On a Pilgrimage, we meet God in His manifestations.

Pilgrims want peace with a loved one or in the world, but they know they must first achieve peace with God.

This can be tough since it involves tiring travel or hard terrain. Every step is important, however difficult. Pilgrimage is a journey to God. Every step on your Pilgrimage will bring you higher consciousness and God awareness. It brings us closer to our faith via honest, focused prayer. We go on Pilgrimages to change, and it happens. Pilgrimage focuses on an intention, desire, or problem-solving. A pilgrim goes to deepen his trust in God. Pilgrims want peace with a loved one or in the world, but they know they must first achieve peace with God. By leaving their daily lives and beginning a Pilgrimage, many Pilgrims meet God and calm, returning with renewed faith and eternal transformation.

A successful pilgrimage means leaving care behind and focusing on God.

While modern Pilgrims have more pleasant travel alternatives, the goal of Pilgrimage remains the same. A pilgrimage to a Holy, Sacred spot brings them into God’s presence. The pilgrim must have cheerful expectations, a desire to temporarily escape from the world, and a willingness to serve others in humility. A successful pilgrimage means leaving care behind and focusing on God.

Pilgrimages are ancient. Such travels are performed as acts of devotion, penance, or thanksgiving in quest of benefits or miracles. Pilgrimage transcends ideology and religion. Muslim law mandates all devoted and able Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Muhammad’s birthplace; Hindus consider bathing in the Ganges sacred; and Christian pilgrims travel considerable distances to worship spots in the Holy Land hallowed by Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Apostles.

Spiritual preparation is needed to obtain the desired frame of mind.

Pilgrimages became popular after Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity, sanctioned the faith throughout the Roman Empire, and established new goals to retrieve key Sacred Christian relics and artifacts. He and his mother Helena became influential Pilgrims after discovering Christ’s tomb, the Holy Sepulcher, and the True Cross. By the fourth century, pilgrimages to the Holy Land were common despite the danger.

As Rome became the center of Christian devotion, it became a popular pilgrimage destination, as did Greece and Egypt. By the Middle Ages, churches and cathedrals housing relics of the Holy Family, Apostles, and early Saints expanded the appeal of pilgrimage.

Preparation is key for a successful pilgrimage. This is especially true for group pilgrimages to the Holy Land, since time is limited and much of it is dedicated to a prearranged schedule. Spiritual preparation is needed to obtain the desired frame of mind.

Christian pilgrims might prepare by reading related Scripture passages.

Christian pilgrims might prepare by reading related Scripture passages. Whether or not the trip is once-in-a-lifetime, the pilgrim should enjoy it. Such an experience can provide spiritual sustenance, more faith, soul-searching and discernment, new resolutions and strengthened commitments, and pleasure, enjoyment, and new friendships.

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Prophetic Pilgrimage Series

“Pilgrimage is a powerful metaphor for any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.” 

Phil Cousineau 

POWER TRUTH 

Happy are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 

Psalm 84:5 NRSV 

Introduction

Because we’re going into a new year, learning about spiritual pilgrimages is only fitting. Going from 2022 to 2023 is like a Prophetic Pilgrimage. Where would this new year take us?

Before discussing why people go on pilgrimages, let’s define one. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. It’s usually a journey to a shrine or other location important to a person’s faith, but it can also be a metaphorical journey into one’s beliefs. Pilgrimage is a meaningful journey. Pilgrimages follow paths walked by pilgrims for hundreds or thousands of years to historical or spiritual sites. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the birth or death of founders or saints, the area of their “calling” or spiritual awakening, the place of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, the locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, the areas where a deity is said to live or be “housed,” or any site with special spiritual powers. Such sites may have shrines or temples that devotees visit to be healed, have questions answered, or achieve other spiritual benefits. Pilgrims make such journeys.

The Holy Land, synonymous with Israel, is a pilgrimage site for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a 2011 Stockholm University study, pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs with collective excitation and connect personally to the Holy Land. A pilgrimage is a sacred journey. It allows us to pause from our busy lives and seek quiet and reflection. It lets us “walk through” whatever issues we have.

The Social Aspect of the Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage can be a social activity, allowing us to enjoy the company of others we meet on the road. It recharges us mentally, physically, and spiritually. People go on pilgrimage at a crossroads when their life direction or relationships change. Others may be seeking a more profound spirituality, healing, or forgiveness. Or a pilgrimage may mark a birthday, retirement, or another occasion for giving thanks. It’s a great way to meet new people and see new places. Pilgrimage can change lives. It is a time to let the old go and welcome the new. Pilgrims are inspired and changed by the places they visit. Pilgrimage can increase awareness and wonder. Or advance our life’s purpose. Pilgrimage helps us focus on “what matters” and rediscover the joy of giving.

To appreciate life’s gifts for Christians, a pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place to ask for the Lord’s blessing or physical or psychological healing. The pilgrimage could be to the Holy Land to walk in Christ’s footsteps or to a nearby shrine or grotto. Pilgrims travel not as a vacation or sightseeing tour but as a prayer and a quest to encounter the Lord. Pilgrimages have been taking place since the early days of the Church when people wanted to see where Jesus lived and taught.

Some Traditional Reasons

Some religions still see a person’s suffering on a grueling journey as penance for their sins, although many modern religions no longer promote this.

God will see this as a sign that they are genuinely sorry and forgive them. To go to heaven, they seek God’s forgiveness. Those who seek something difficult or impossible to achieve, like healing from a long-term incurable problem like illness or infertility, or finding success in a field that has eluded them, be it work, romance, or anything else, may look for a miracle from God. They make a pilgrimage as thanks for the miracle. Henry VIII reportedly visited Walsingham to pray for a son. Pilgrims have reported miracles during and after their journeys. One source says the Catholic Church recognizes 65 miracles at Lourdes.

Many pilgrimage sites housed religious relics, such as a cloth soaked in a saint’s blood, a piece of a saint’s skeleton, or a piece of Jesus’s cross. Some believed that touching holy artifacts brought good luck, mainly if they belonged to someone with desirable traits, such as courage or healing abilities. Even in the Bible, ordinary people made pilgrimages, like Mary and Joseph, who went to Jerusalem for Passover. The pilgrimage would require time and effort. Next week, we’ll examine these costs.

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The Perfect Amphibian 

Each of us was created to be unique. Being an Insider does not mean you “pretend” to be something you are not. This is not what being an amphibian is. People can detect it when you are inauthentic. The perfect amphibian was Jesus Christ. 

Jesus hung out with the sinners but never sinned. The crowd was drawn to him because he spoke their language. They were able to relate to him. Jesus was able to connect with sinners without having to compromise his own beliefs. 

The common language is love.

Jesus never denied who he was. He was authentic. Yet, he was still able to make those connections. Jesus drew people to him because of his genuine concern and love for the people. The common language is love in this world and in the world of God. 

Jesus may seem like the most unrelatable person in the world because, well, for starters – He’s the Messiah, and you are a sinner. He is holy; you are not. He is as white as snow. You are like a filthy rag. He has perfect love. Your love is conditional. These reasons and several others make a load of difference between him and any other person in the world. How was Jesus able to make himself relevant? 

 

Jesus stayed in the center of God’s will.

However, once you get to know Jesus by reading your Bible, you will be surprised at how relatable this person is. He was born into a humble family. His lineage came from characters who had questionable values. Some were prostitutes. One was a murderer. Satan attacked and tempted him. 

The Bible said he was 100% human, and his life accounts showed that he was human. The only thing was he never sinned. He stayed his course. Jesus remained in the center of God’s will.  

The 4 Quadrants

Jesus understood the power in the four quadrants. He had a political agenda. In fact, he is the King of kings. Moreover, he let the world know of his dominion and his authority. The Bible says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). 

Jesus also had an economic plan. He spoke about money more than he did anything else. He knew he needed to place a Christian perspective on money. His teaching about finances remains our standard for managing our finances to this day. 

Jesus had a social agenda. In a culture wherein religion set the “religious” and the “sinners” apart, Jesus stood in the gap. He had meals with tax collectors, considered the worst sinners during those times.  

In a culture that held traditions and rituals to be of significant importance and sanctity, Jesus healed on Sabbath. He exhibited how people were more important than traditions. Jesus shocked people.  

Jesus created possibilities that were not known of. He performed miracles. Also, he healed the sick. Moreover, he made people rise from the dead. A carpenter from a humble family spent his time in the temple, discussing the teachers of the Law. These were just some of the counter-cultural breakthroughs that Jesus generated.  

Jesus also had a spiritual agenda. We see how Jesus significantly challenged the way of the Pharisees. He had heated encounters with religious leaders. Jesus changed the way we define holiness. The Lord said: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matthew 15:11). 

Jesus is the perfect example of the amphibian.

Jesus Christ would be the perfect example of the amphibian because he spoke the world’s language and the Lord’s language. He could connect with the world while remaining associated with the Father. He could reach and make an impact in the four corners of the world.  

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The Amphibian 

This purpose is to connect with the world to win people over to follow Christ. To communicate with the world, we need to be people that other people want to connect with rather than people they want to avoid touching. There will be times when men will look up to us, and we will be able to attract them to us like a magnet. On other occasions, a concerted effort to connect with them is required to be successful.

If some aspect of a new culture does not compromise the gospel and makes you more accessible to others, there is no reason not to adapt to that element out of courtesy and love – even if it is not your preference. Otherwise, because of you, the gospel may appear “unnecessarily alien.” We must avoid offending listeners because we are culturally offensive rather than the gospel…. Proper contextualization [of the gospel] means causing the right scandal – the one the gospel poses to all sinners – and removing all unnecessary ones. (Tim Keller, Center Church, 111)  

Connect to the world

We can connect to this world through the use of the gifts that have been given to us. Bridging the divide with our contributions is not an end in and of itself. For us to serve the world, we need to close the gap, and the world, in turn, will be interested in seeing what (Who) we have to offer once we do so.

We do not wish for the people whose hearts we desire to win for Christ to find us to be an obstacle in their path. You would not want someone to feel out of place simply because they choose to educate their children in a manner that is different from the norm or because they listen to music that is not the same as everyone else.

Invitation

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