January 2015 Pastor’s Pen
Dear Holy Trinity family,
On Christmas Eve I quoted a recent study that says two-thirds of all travelers are pilgrims. A pilgrim is on a spiritual journey, perhaps to a religious destination others would recognize, or maybe to an unnamed, undiscovered place where the seeker hopes to find peace or enlightenment. (Remember your U.S. history? The Pilgrims with a capital P were Puritans seeking a new home where they would enjoy freedom from the religious oppression of England. They found that liberty in New England.)
Coming from a pastoral point of view, I’d amend the study to say that 100% of us are pilgrims. We’re all on a spiritual journey. It consciously stretches from birth to death, but begins well before we see the light of day and never really ends. Psalm 139:13 says:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
There’s a lovely legend that says babies actually start out in heaven and then come to earth. Instead of the stork delivering the child, an angel does. In transit, the angel tells the child to be silent about what he or she has seen in heaven. For emphasis the angel whispers “Shhhhh….” and gently places a finger on the baby’s lips, leaving an imprint that remains throughout life.
A chaplain friend of mine once gave a devotion stating that we humans are the only living beings that wonder where we came from and where we’re going. We don’t live solely in the present; we can remember a past, imagine a future, and intentionally live a meaning-full life today.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect that we’re here because God wants us to be. God has holy plans for our lives. The Lord has kingdom work for us to do, gifts to give to us and through us. As long as we breathe, our lives have divine purpose. Beyond this earthly life, too, the example we leave can continue to bless.
Sometimes the emotional pain of the past (that has been inflicted on us or that we’ve caused others) cripples our life in the present and stunts our hopes for the future. I found this related passage in a novel I was reading over Christmas break:
“You can’t live in the past and you certainly can’t undo it… Memories can kill… The past can reach right up and grab you and drag you to a place you shouldn’t be. Like a burning building.”1
It is never God’s will that the past should ruin the present or handicap us forever. Forgiveness is the gift of God that can heal us, heal our memories, if only we will receive it: grace to forgive others, grace to accept God’s forgiveness of us.
As we journey through this year of our Lord (Anno Domini, AD) 2015 may every “if only” deal with present and future and never the past. “If only” today I open myself to God’s light my path will become clear. “If only” today I open my heart to God’s love my hurt will be healed. “If only” today I listen to God’s Word I will find all the en-courage-ment and en-light-enment I need to walk in spiritual safety and moral integrity. “If only” today I love God above all else and love my neighbor as myself my life will be meaning-full and never meaning-less. “If only” today I act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God, I will fulfill God’s holy plan for my life, lifelong.
Apparently the Tibetan word for human being literally means goer. Even those of us who stick closest to home physically are pilgrims on a spiritual journey. Here is the prayer of the day in our Evangelical Lutheran Worship funeral liturgy:
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you today our sister/brother, ______________________. We thank you for giving her/him to us to know and to love as a companion in our pilgrimage on earth.
I give thanks that I travel with you. We are companions, friends who break Bread together along the Way, finding forgiveness, joy, nourishment, strength in both Word & Sacrament. Our destination is God. The prayer of the day ends:
Give us faith to see that death has been swallowed up in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may live in confidence and hope until, by your call, we are gathered to our heavenly home in the company of all your saints; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
The hymn “Rise, O Church, like Christ Arisen” advises, “Remember well the future!” As we step off into this new year of grace, let’s remember: ours is a future of resurrection hope.
In Christ, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things,
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham