Mary and I have just returned from completing the first 3 weeks of the Amos Trust “Just Walk to Jerusalem”. We are a small band of walkers asking for peace, justice and reconciliation for all who call the Holy Land home. Over the three weeks we have trodden in the steps of pilgrims down the ages, on two very ancient pilgrimage routes: The Pilgrims Way, from London to Canterbury Cathedral, and on from there along the Via Francigena, heading for Rome.
So, why have we decided to go on this walk? Each of us has different reasons, but we are all united in a common goal: to promote justice, peace and reconciliation in the country where the common father of Jews and Muslims lived, Abraham, from whom even Christians claim their parenthood by faith.
Perhaps we can see Abraham as the first pilgrim.
Pilgrimage involves being called out of the safety of home and stability; from the familiar and safe to the unfamiliar and slightly dangerous. It involves a break from the security of our little nest to the adventure of the open road.
Pilgrimage is physically demanding and demands determination and some little courage. We found ourselves bound by very strong ties to our fellow pilgrims with whom we lived and walked.
Abraham is said to be the first pilgrim. He responded to the call of God,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household 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. …and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you”.
The journey with his father from Ur was 600 miles, and his journey of faith from Haran to Shechem a further 400 miles. Abram was asked to abandon his people, his land and his gods, and have the courage to put his trust in the creator God who as yet he hardly knew. Through many twists and turns of his journey he kept believing, and discovered a God who was faithful in all His covenant promises to him, receiving a son through his barren wife Sarah, from whom through many generations Jesus sprang, fulfilling the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Him.
Jesus himself took up the pilgrim life. Having received His call at His baptism, he journeyed through the land, teaching His small band of followers, with nowhere to lay His head, until setting His face towards Jerusalem He made the final journey to Golgotha, where He made the final sacrifice, setting His people free to follow Him through death and resurrection to the promised Land of a new heaven and earth, where we will all finally rest from our pilgrim travels.
Each one of us is called to make a pilgrim journey, abandoning the ties that bind us, and giving up all our petty gods to follow Jesus on the road to which he calls us, travelling with our fellow pilgrims in Trinity, here in Lewes, but united to that greater band who follow their own personal call to follow their Saviour along the various roads on which we are called to travel, arriving at our final destination, the Holy city of a new united heaven and earth, centred on Christ whom we worship