Monday, May 26, 2014

Spiritual Plan for Pilgrimage 2014

Good Morning!
With my bags now packed and waiting by the door, I am realizing in a new way that our pilgrimage experience is now upon us. What will we learn? What will God have to say to us?

While we are intentionally taking your children "away" -- away from their devices, away from regular contact with familiar surroundings -- we are all united in the spirit of prayer, and I would ask that you hold all of us in prayer as we travel, not only for our safety, but that God would reveal himself to us (and in particular, to your teens) in new and profound ways. To that end, what follows is a brief summary of the spiritual program that Matthew and I have developed for the days ahead. Please consider reading and praying along with us in this shared way.
As one side note, I am mindful this morning that we are setting out on our journey on Memorial Day, the day on which we give thanks for those who sacrificed their own lives in the interest of our freedom. Jesus said that no man has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends; what even greater love it must be than to lay down one's life for a country filled with people whom you have never met, and people even as yet unborn. Let us give thanks in our prayers for those who made it possible for us to travel so freely and so easily, for those who protected our right to practice our religion in whatever way we choose, and in particular for those who laid down their lives to liberate Germany and defend the United States not once but twice in the first half of the last century. What a great legacy is ours in them.
Yours in faith,
The Anglican way of prayer is cyclical. We pray on a regular schedule such that our day is metered by prayer. While our monastic ancestors would pray as many as seven times daily, we will be observing the first and last of their offices, Morning Prayer and Compline, as the beginning and end of our days. These services can be found in your Prayer Books on pages 75 and 127, respectively. Both of these services are designed to be conducted by lay people, and I hope that within the first few days of our time away, it will be our youth who are stepping up to lead them.

We will not follow the Morning Prayer lectionary as prescribed in the Prayer Book. Instead, we will be tracking the Exodus story, with a few additions from other parts of Holy Scripture, asking always the question, "What does it mean to set out on a journey with God?" Specific passages and reflection questions follow.
In addition, the adult leaders of our pilgrimage will be putting scripture passages before our youth for their reflection. These, we will discern as we travel and try to connect to the things that we are seeing.
DAY 1 - May 26 - Departure - Setting Out - Genesis 12:1-9
A pilgrimage is far more about the journey than it is the destination. Shortly before boarding the airplane in Atlanta, we will gather for prayer, and our pilgrims will be encouraged to reflect on the call story of Abram, later Abraham: Set out from your own country, from the land of your fathers, and go to the place that I will show you, and there I will bless you.

DAY 2 - May 27 - Arrival - Setting out from Egypt - Exodus 16:30-34, 40-42, 50-51
The Israelites set out from Egypt. They gather only what they can carry and head off into the wilderness. What is it to set out into an unknown place? What do we truly need to be carrying as we go there?
Day 3 - May 29 - Exodus 13:17-22
God does not let the Israelites wander on their way out of Egypt, instead he leads them with a pillar of cloud by day and defends them with a pillar of fire by night. God never leaves his people alone. How does God lead us? How does God protect us?
Day 4 - May 30 - Exodus 14:10-22
When the Israelites found themselves pinned between the Red Sea and the advancing Egyptian army, God worked through Moses to part the sea and let them cross on dry ground. But, it didn't happen immediately as in the movies. The scripture says that a strong wind blew all night and parted the seas. They had to wait on God to deliver them. What is it like to wait on God? Do we believe that God will deliver us? What is a modern example of God delivering us in this way?
Day 5 - May 31 - Exodus 16:2-5,13-18
In the wilderness, the Israelites relied on God for everything. They could not survive without him. Even their food came only from him. But, they also could not collect more food than they needed. God sustained them with just enough. What does it mean for us to live as people to whom God gives us our daily bread -- just enough for this day -- and to trust that tomorrow he will give us our daily bread for tomorrow?

Day 6 - June 1 - Exodus 20:1-21
The Israelites time in the wilderness was God's opportunity to teach them how they would live, and act, and behave. God's people would behave differently because they were God's people. In the story o receiving the Ten Commandments, note how the people approached God with fear and reverence. 

Today, we will also worship with Episcopalians in Frankfurt. Think about our connections to each other through the language of prayer; the same words and scriptures being used in Frankfurt and Memphis and all around the world.
Day 7 - June 2 - Exodus 34:1-12
After leading the people of Israel through the Wilderness, he dies on Mount Nebo after anointing Joshua to lead his people into the Promised Land. This is a moment of completion and also a recognition that there is more work and ministry to be done by the next generation of leaders.
Day 8 - June 3 - Matthew 17:1-9
And Jesus went up a high mountain with Peter, James, and John, and was transfigured before them. Jesus went up a mountain, to a place alone and apart, and revealed himself more fully to his disciples. Though the disciples did not want to return, they had to walk down the mountain, because there was work to be done in the valley. In what ways has God revealed himself to us more fully on this pilgrimage? What have we learned from this time on the mountain with God?

Day 9 - June 4
This is the day on which we are slated to visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The adult leaders of the pilgrimage are planning to use this day as a case study in the problem of evil. What has our learning about God in the week just past taught us about how to encounter evil and to speak over it words of peace. We have intentionally left the scriptures for this day open so that we might discern further what God would like us to hear on this day. Please hold us in your prayers especially tightly today.

Day 10 - Travel Home - Luke 24:1-12
Resurrection. God brings new life out of death, redeeming all of our experiences, and creating in us new people, totally different from what we were before. We reenter the world with the sure confidence that God will bless the experiences we have had on this journey, 

As we get on the long flight back from Frankfurt to Detroit, we will present the pilgrims with Luke 24:13-35, the walk to Emmaus, wherein Jesus appears to his disciples as they walk on the road after the resurrection. How might God appear to us in new ways as we journey home?

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