The Journey of Lent

I have been ranting a bit about the word “journey.” Like so many words, if we use it too much, it loses meaning. Lately I’ve been hearing too much about the cancer journey. A friend now receives regular posts from a blog called “Your Young Adult Cancer Journey.”  We talk about our faith journey, our life journey, our vocational journey, our journey to adulthood. When someone is near death, we pray for their journey to the next chapter. I recently preached a sermon on the Transfiguration gospel that begged for the word, and I refused to use it–instead, I talked about the gospel being about movement, about Jesus’ trek to Jerusalem, about the mountain top as a way-station, and about our call to trudge on level ground.

(My sermon looked like this. This is a change for me in my homiletical journey…what do your sermons look like when you’re ready to move from preparation to delivery?)

All journey-bashing aside, those of us who follow Jesus are, in fact, embarking on what we often refer to as our Lenten journey which is, at least for me, very much like all of life. Lent is a time to look at what I let between me and God, a time to clean up and a time to pare down. It is a specific journey through the calendar toward Holy Week and Easter, and also a journey toward only God knows where. I came across a poem recently by Ellen Bass which might be my very favorite poem this week, “Asking Directions in Paris.” You can watch and listen to the poet read it here, and I hope you do. If you don’t, here are the lines that stopped me in my tracks:

And as you…set off full of groundless hope,
you think this must be how it is
with destiny: God explaining
and explaining what you must do,
and all you can make out is a few
unconnected phrases, a word or two, a wave
in what you pray is the right direction.

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If you find yourself on a Lenten journey or any other kind of journey, I pray that you will, indeed, find yourselves full of hope, groundless or otherwise, that God will lead you in the right direction.

 

Psalm 143, appointed for Ash Wednesday

 

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Worship 

There are many things that distinguish a pilgrimage from a holiday or other kinds of organized tours. We worship together. A lot. The first thing we did together (after sharing food, of course) was to share mass. 

Lynn Adams reflects on today’s worship:

Being crowded into the Elijah Chapel and praying in our familiar forms; being supremely tired and also extremely waked up by the feeling that a very big story happened right here to Jesus and his lovably clueless disciples; the stormy atmosphere—all this pulled me into a feeling that something even more extreme or extraordinary is present than I can quite catch. 

Our first mass together


Kierstin Brown offers this snippet of our time in that chapel: ​
​You can read more about our visit to the Church of the Transfiguration here

Day Three: Arrival and Transfiguration

Our tired, happy group arrived in Tel Aviv at 9:30am, Israel time, collected ourselves and our luggage, found our guide, Ghassan, and boarded the bus that will be our home away from our various homes away from home for the next 9 days.

“”We drove past small towns and rich farmland to meet up for lunch with our group members who had arrived from other places the previous day. Those people had the benefit of this lovely sunrise over the Sea of Galilee on Tuesday morning; it rained most of the day but we hope for a similar sunrise Wednesday or Thursday!

Joe McDermott contributed the rest of today’s post:

Today at the beginning of our Pilgrimage here in Israel and Palestine, we went to the top of Mount Tabor, where believers hold that the Transfiguration took place. (See: Matthew, Chapter 17)  We’d had many paths to gather here in the Holy Land (I’ll take my pre-pilgrimage holiday over the diversion to Newark and 9 hour layover many shared any day!), and this was a fitting place to begin.

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There are two churches at the top of a striking mount rising up out of the plains, one Franciscan and Greek Orthodox (which seems to be closed). The pictures are of the Franciscan church exterior, the nave, detail of the mosaic above the main altar, Rev Rob Rhodes (Associate Rector at St Paul’s) celebrating Mass in the Elijah side chapel, the detail of Moses above the altar in the other side chapel, and a view from the church to the valley below. 
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 It became clear I wasn’t alone finding myself in awe to be standing for the first time in a place Jesus walked.  Through our shared liturgy, we became a transformed gathering of pilgrims, shedding any tourist-identity we still had tagging along.  Jesus reveals himself to us – sometimes in dazzling white – and sometimes asks us to hold that in our hearts until the time is right.  I hold this experience in my heart and know that I will have the skill and insight to share it in the right way when the time is right.  We as a group see ourselves differently as well, transformed by the experience.  We went up the mount perhaps a group of tourists and came down a community of pilgrims.  This is a fitting beginning.

 Growing up Camp Filed, the former Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) summer camp and retreat where Sleeping Lady Conference Center is now outside Leavenworth, Washington, was very important to me and my family.  Thus beginning at Mount Tabor was particularly poignant for me as the Chapel at Camp Field was the Chapel of the Transfiguration and I had occasion to remember dear friends in my prayers there this afternoon.

Remembering where we come from and entering into a spirit of pilgrimage, its been a good day.