Tomorrow morning I leave for Jerusalem with Bishop Smith and a cadre of fellow pilgrims from Arizona and the Diocese of Olympia. I will use part of the time to work on details for the parish pilgrimage in 2019 that Fr Kitagawa and I are working on with Fr Peter. I will be back with you all on Sunday February 4th. In the meantime, as always, I have complete confidence in Fr Peter to handle any needs that may arise.
This coming Sunday you will see our excellent lay leadership present our budget, stewardship results, and more. I am exceedingly grateful for the work of Herb Burton, Bonnie Winn, Beth Brouillette, Lois Britton, Warren Edminster, Sally Larsen, John Bremond, Sunny Bal, Mary Paul, and so many more who give so generously of their time and wisdom to shepherd and sustain our common life and plan for our future. We will elect our slate of new vestry candidates who are simply outstanding and we will mark another year in the eighty we have now served Christ at River and Campbell.
I make this pilgrimage full of hope and eager for the coming years together.
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a time for re-connection with the roots of our faith - a time of walking in the steps of Christ so that we might re-center our life's walk and be re-directed toward the heavenly city. It feels like a perfect time to me to making this pilgrimage because I sense that our parish is also just on the cusp of a journey deeper into the joyful hope that God has for us. I don't know exactly what that looks like nor even what it means but I am awake with an eager longing to see it all.
Standing within the gates of Jerusalem is an experience that is unlike just about any other because the immediacy of our faith is brought home. Walking the cramped streets and getting lost amidst the crowds and straining to get a glimpse of a holy site or sight that some seem enraptured by while others just shove just to get by are all the kinds of spiritual experiences we will all have in our daily journeys. We will feel lost amidst the crowd. We will strain for a glimpse while feeling pushed in one direction and jostled in another by life. We will see something that holds our eye and mind and heart while others will see nothing at all.
On this pilgrimage I will pray for us often. I will pray for the new widow. I will pray for the back surgery. I will pray for the couple struggling to stay together and the couple struggling to grow their family. I will pray for the husband working too many jobs and the wife trying to find one. I will pray for someone considering ordination and for those making the decision to retire after this life's work is done. I will pray for the departed of recent days and long years. I will pray for the veteran who slept in our columbarium and for the mother and child embarrassed to ask for food.
I will pray for many of your individual needs and concerns and I will pray for our common life. I will pray for those who worked, prayed, and gave that we might have this place and life together in Christ. I will pray for us to have the will to be ancestors as faithful as they were.
I hope that you will pray for me as well. This is what a pilgrimage is at its heart - the intentional re-entry into the story of grace. It is a journey back to the heart of prayer. It is an embodied prayer of longing to enter into the Savior's story and to dive deeper into the heart of it all. It is a reawakening to the source and summit of our faith.
We have spent the Christmas season celebrating the inbreaking of God into a manger and celebrating the very real birth of God With Us. If that scene teaches anything then it teaches that God embraces us even in the midst of our very human realities – because of those very human realities. God seems to speak less in the grand than in the simple, the essential, and the human – for that is what we might understand. Walking the streets of Jerusalem brings home this reality and reminds us of what it means that the Word was made flesh to walk the crowded, pressured, hustling streets with us.
Our prayers are always answered. This is a true thing and worthy of all to be remembered. They may not be answered in the way we understand, the way we long, or the way we expect. I will pray for you all on this pilgrimage and I hope you will for me. May our prayers be answered and may our journeys, pilgrimages, and wanderings always find us nearer together in heart and hope to Christ's own than we can ask or imagine.
Yours in Christ,