A PILGRIMAGE DEVOTIONAL
How should we prepare ourselves to serve on staff at Pilgrimage? Clearly, we must become familiar with the requirements of our assigned position. Some must prepare or acquire supplies; others must prepare Talks. This structured part of Pilgrimage focuses on the tasks carried out prior to and during the three day weekend. In so doing, however, it is too easy to neglect the most important part ---preparing spiritually to be Christ's hands and feet and heart as we serve the participants.
At the beginning of the Presbyterian Cursillo Manual on which Presbyterian Pilgrimage is based, Dr. Fred Keith, who adapted the practices of the Roman Catholic Cursillo and Episcopal Cursillo to be consistent with the Reformed Faith, wrote these words:
Cursillo [Pilgrimage] is a spiritual movement; therefore it addresses the human condition at the point of intersection with God. Everything that happens at [Pilgrimage] is aimed at this point where God and humankind live in conscious awareness. Piety, defined as this conscious awareness of life in relationship to God, is the natural environment of [Pilgrimage]. Prayer then, is fundamental to [Pilgrimage], for it is in prayer that piety is born, and through prayer that piety is nurtured.
This devotional owes its inspiration to a 30 day devotional created for the Austin, Texas Presbyterian Cursillo community and adapted by Chicagoland Presbyterian Cursillo. It includes 45 daily entries from a wide variety of sources, created by MPP for use on MPP #3 weekend the spring of 2006. The devotional for each day is a beginning point for prayer and meditation. It will put each staff member on the same page on the same day.
Even if you have not journaled before, take up pencil and paper and start a Pilgrimage Journal as you prepare for, move through, and later reflect upon this Pilgrimage experience. Read through each meditation several times, and write down your thoughts and impressions. Perhaps when you look back after Pilgrimage you will be able to see how God was at work in your life, and how He blessed your life. Just as Moses' journal of Israel's 40 years in the wilderness has proved a blessing for later generations, perhaps your Journal will bless you and yours. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert preparing himself for his ministry. So, it is hoped that these days of reflection will help prepare you to be Christ's servant at Pilgrimage.
DAY 1 - THE SEVENTH SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
Exodus 31: 12-17
"The Lord said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites. 'You shall keep my Sabbaths for this is a sign between me and you throughout the generations, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you......
For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord...."
Mark 2: 27-28
"Then He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even on the Sabbath.' "
Do you sometimes find yourself distracted when sitting in church on Sunday? Distracted by the struggle to get there, or struggles of the past week? Or do you look at your watch, and think of all the things you need to do later in the day, or in the coming week? It's easy for our lives to become so full of tasks and activities that we are always behind. And that busy-ness brings stress, unhappiness and a lack of true fulfillment. Attending church should not be another chore. God made this Sabbath for you. For thousands of years, this day has been a sign from God himself of his covenant with you, a covenant he first made with Moses, and re-made in his Son, the "Lord of even the Sabbath."
Celebrate this Sabbath as we begin our journey toward Pilgrimage. Open your heart wide to the love of Jesus Christ. Allow Him to refresh and renew your life.
DAY 2 - Monday CALLED
Genesis 12 1-3
"The Lord said to Abram, leave your country, your people and your father's household and go 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....."
Matthew 4: 18-20
"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him."
Abram answered the call. He could not have done otherwise. To the ancient Hebrews, a call heard must be answered. So too, we have been called to serve as Pilgrimage staff. A message went out, and those who heard that message as a call to them, responded. Simon and Andrew, upon hearing Jesus' call laid aside their nets. How can you prepare to lay aside your nets, your worldly duties, as Pilgrimage approaches?
DAY 3 – Tuesday SPREADING THE WORD
Matthew 9: 37-38
"Then he said to his disciples. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Matthew 28: 19-20
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."
Presbyterian Pilgrimage functions on the premise that the Holy Spirit calls people to attend Pilgrimage weekends. At the same time, however, we are messengers carrying the news of Pilgrimage to our fellow parishioners and to other Presbyterian churches. Jesus gave his disciples the good news of the Gospel but he directed them to carry it to others. So too, it is our role to tell others of Pilgrimage. Do you find that difficult to do? Perhaps you could staff a table in your church to bring information about Pilgrimage to the attention of others.
Why not carry a few participant applications in your pocket?
DAY 4 - Wednesday PREPARING TO SERVE (1)
Matthew 20: 26-28
"Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave---just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'"
How many times did someone tell you that you needed to serve on staff at Pilgrimage? That staffing completed the Pilgrimage experience? There is a real truth in those statements but there is lurking danger as well. The danger lies in approaching a Pilgrimage weekend so focused on your own spiritual needs that you are unable to really serve others. The second chapter of the Pilgrimage Manual explains the danger.
"The staff members are servants, and they are at Pilgrimage to give themselves for the participants. Yet every staff person has needs of their own crying out to be satisfied. Sometimes those needs are so pressing they not only overshadow the individual's ability to concentrate on the participants, but occupy other staff members' energies as well. The danger lies in using the participants, and Pilgrimage itself, for self centered purposes. This does not mean that staff's needs are unimportant, but it does mean that the staff's needs are subordinate to the participants' needs. It does not deny the truth that the minister is always ministered to in the very process of ministering. It does avoid shifting the focus of the weekend from the participants to the staff."
What personal issues might get in your way in focusing totally on the participants?
DAY 5 - Thursday PREPARING TO SERVE (2)
Preparing yourself well to staff involves at least two things:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Don't wait until you arrive at Pilgrimage to bring your burdens to Christ. Begin today.
Philippians 4: 13
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Pray for Christ to strengthen you, to be in you and in all that you do. And remember, don't arrive at the Pilgrimage site tired and worn out. Arrive well-rested. Look after your health issues in the weeks before Pilgrimage. It's difficult to lose staff in the days before Pilgrimage, and doubly difficult to replace a Rollo giver!
DAY 6 -Friday INTERCESSION
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul began many of his letters by proclaiming that he was praying for those to whom he wrote. Dr. Keith wrote at the very beginning of the Cursillo Manual, "Since Cursillo addresses the participants at the point of their relationship with God, prayer is primarily an expression of pastoral care for them. The Cursillo community, individually and gathered, lifts up the participants in prayer, trusting that God will work his miracle of deepening faith and commitment in their lives; that God will remove the obstacles that hinder their living in faith and commitment."
We should begin our preparation in the same way, praying for those we will serve. In your journal write the names of participants now enrolled, praying for them as Paul prayed: thank God for them; pray that God will give them the spirit of wisdom
and revelation; pray that the eyes of their hearts will be opened, that they will know the hope to which they have been called. Pray with joy. Pray with confidence that God's good work in them, and in all of us, will be carried to completion.
DAY 7 - Saturday FAITH
Matthew 14: 29-31
"Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'"
Sometimes the winds of life frighten us causing us to lose sight of Christ, to doubt his presence and to doubt our own faith. Like Peter, our fear and doubt cause us to sink even further into the sea. When the storm is bad enough we can reach the panic point, and there may be a sense of guilt that our faith isn't strong enough to sustain us through the storm. But take comfort; remember that despite Peter's doubts, despite his lack of faith, Christ was there for him, to save him from drowning. Peter cried out, "Lord, save me." And Jesus responded to that cry for help.
Lest we fault Peter too much, remember that Peter got out of the boat. He didn't sit there saying, "I believe Lord, I really do believe." And in our lives we must get out of the boat, and depend upon Christ holding us up when we cry out for his help. Pilgrimage is not a storm and we may think that we can handle it all by ourselves, but reach out in faith, for with Christ holding our hand we might be vessels of his grace to someone floundering in a storm.
DAY -8 THE SIXTH SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
John Calvin calls the faithful to "refrain from their own works on the Sabbath, in order to leave God to work within them." Clearly God was at work when Jesus healed " a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years," he was criticized for doing this on the Sabbath. His provocative answer appears in the following verse:
Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?
How do modern American Christians honor the Sabbath? How will we honor it at Pilgrimage?
DAY 9- Monday GRACE
John 8: 4-10
"Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you day?.... [Jesus] straightened up and said to them, 'If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'... At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there."
In his book, What's so Amazing About Grace, Phillip Yancey reminds us of the story of the adulteress at the well. "This scene from John rattles me because by nature I identify more with the Pharisee accusers than with the adulteress accused. I deny far more than I confess. Cloaking myself under a robe of respectability, I seldom if ever let myself get caught in a blatant public indiscretion. Yet if I understood this story correctly. The sinful woman is the one nearest the kingdom of God. Indeed, I can only advance in the kingdom if I become like the woman: trembling, humbled, without excuse, my palms open to receive God's grace."
With whom do you identify the Pharisees or the woman? Why?
DAY 10 - Tuesday RECEIVING GRACE
Everyone's experience of Pilgrimage is uniquely his or her own. What did they receive? What did they take away? Written responses were provided anonymously by Cursillistas at a Chicagoland Ultreya to the following questions regarding their experiences on the weekend. "How would you define (Pilgrimage)? How did it change your life? How did it deepen your faith? The following statements were taken from a stack of perhaps 75 written responses.
1. It was a three day experience with Jesus Christ that increased my faith in Christ and fellow Christians.
2. A profound time of spiritual growth and fellowship.
3. It was a changing point in my life, and I felt a "peace" that I hadn't felt in 20 years.
4. It prepared me for a rougher road ahead and taught me to give some of my load to God and others who I can trust.
5. It is a time to let the Scripture take you in unexpected ways. There is now more expectancy in my Christian life.
6. Pilgrimage rescued me from a spiral of depression brought on by my personal problems; I left renewed with the conviction that God still has great plans for me.
7. Because I was able to leave my daily life with all its stresses, I could focus on a deeper relationship with Jesus through the loving embrace of a community of believers.
8. After 31 years as a Christian it still impacted me and refreshed my faith showing me how wonderful God is.
9. It makes you feel like you are 10 years old again and everybody likes you.
10. It renewed my desire to do Christian service.
11. It's like a retreat, but its not a retreat. It was a short course on basic Christianity. And we had fun!
12. It connected me to the church.
13. It gave me a new sense of belonging to the Lord and to His family.
14. I stopped being a Sunday only Christian.
15. It allowed me to integrate all of my experiences of faith to expand my spiritual horizon.
16. It gave me a feeling of belonging when I was new to the church.
17. It created an awareness of what the community of believers must have been like in the early church.
18. It started me keeping a "gratitude journal" so that I am focused on all God's blessings in my life---rather than on problems.
19. It gave me many new brothers and sisters in Christ, and connections across the denomination.
20. It has enabled me to be more open and joyful about my faith; I'm not afraid to verbalize my love for Christ.
What did your Pilgrimage mean to you? How did it deepen your faith? How can you help deepen another's faith? Consider response number 9 above. If we can make each Pilgrimage participant feel that everyone there likes them.... even for our three days together, the weekend will be a success. Make that your goal on Pilgrimage staff, perhaps not the 10 year old part, but let each of them know that you really like them. And let your fellow staffers know that you like them too.
DAY 11 - Wednesday THE SILENT RETREAT
Be still and know that I am God."
A deeper awareness of God is often possible in stillness, in silence, and we should all spend more time with the Lord in thoughtful silence. For many happily married couples or even good friends, just being together in shared silence is meaningful without filling the air with constant chatter. So too, it can be for you with God.
Dan Rather once asked Mother Teresa, "What do you say to God when you pray?"
Without hesitation mother Teresa answered quietly, "I listen."
Taken aback, Rather tried again, "Well then, what does God say?"
Mother Teresa smiled, "He listens."
So it is that Pilgrimage begins with the silent retreat. What do you remember about that experience? Have you imposed a silent retreat upon yourself since your Pilgrimage?
DAY 12 – Thursday CALLED BY NAME
I Samuel 3:1-6
"The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, 'Here I am' And he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' But Eli said, 'I did not call; go back and lie down.'"
For many participants, the first morning wakeup with "Samuel, Samuel" will be an especially memorable part of a Pilgrimage weekend, coming as it does after a night of silence. No matter how many times one staffs on a Pilgrimage, on that first morning of each weekend, being called by name is special.
John 10:3-5 that tell us that:
The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
And how do we know his voice, if not by conversing with Him in daily prayer.
Remember too, the words that tell us of the shepherd's love and his re-assurance to each of us.
John 10: 14-15
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me---just as the Father knows me and I know the Father---and I lay down my life for my sheep."
And He did!
DAY 13- Friday GIVING THANKS
John 12: 3
"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it over Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair."
"While Jesus was in Bethany ...a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume which she poured on his heads as he was reclining at table."
The idea of ladling perfumed ointment on someone as an act of adulation is foreign to us in our culture, but it was not foreign in Jesus' time nor for thousands of years before. In the Egyptian tombs at Saqqara, south of Cairo, dating from 2000 BC there are wall carvings showing the Pharaoh sitting on his throne with a heap of perfume laden material upon his head---perhaps prepared from spikenard, an aromatic herb of Asia, dating from antiquity. How much more fitting that Jesus, King of Kings should be adored and adorned than that an Egyptian ruler should be so revered.
If the physical Christ would appear before you, how would you adore Him? Create a special prayer for such an occasion.
DAY 14 - Saturday DIVERSITY
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them."
You are all children of God... for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither...male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In a denomination such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), which sets a high value upon diversity, the first level of diversity must certainly be that of gender. Presbyterian Pilgrimage is one of the few manifestations of Cursillo that is co-ed. Unlike Roman Catholic or Episcopal Cursillo where men go first and women go to a later weekend, men and women attend together, but married participants do not room together. This helps each participant maintain a strong focus on the Holy Spirit, and not on the other marital partner. Pilgrimage is open to all Christians. It is consistent with Reformed Theology. At Pilgrimage we all start on or about the same page of our Christian story, and we go on from there in the expectation that the Holy Spirit will renew that faith in a variety of ways.
Do not sit together with your close friends at meals or in the Chapel. Sit with participants. If staffing as a couple, operate individually. Remember that our primary focus is on the participants; our last priority is ourselves.
DAY 15 – THE FIFTH SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
The Christian life is a pilgrimage to the Kingdom into which the believer enters by the resurrection. Baptism is an early road marker on that journey. It is a welcoming into the Christian family. Baptism, like the Lord's Supper, sets the believer between the two poles of redemption---the death and resurrection of Jesus almost 2000 years ago, and the future coming of Jesus, in God's good time.
Can you remember your baptism? If you were baptized as an infant, recall the welcome your congregation gives as each person becomes part of the church.
DAY 16 - Monday THE FOOT WASHING
"It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. "
In Jesus' day the task of washing the feet of the household was reserved for servants, even the lowest of the servants. And here in this text we have the one before whom nations will kneel, kneeling before his disciples. The very night before he will die, his concern is that they know how much he loves them.
Max Lucado in Just like Jesus reminds us that no matter how hard you may look, there is no translation that says: "Jesus washed all the disciples' feet except the feet of Judas." Within hours the feet of Judas, cleansed by the kindness of the one he will betray, will stand in Caiaphas'court. Jesus was forgiving him and the others for their failures and shortcomings even before they sinned.
How would you react if Jesus, knowing everything about you, knelt before you to wash your feet? Would you feel the urge to wash his?
DAY 17- Tuesday THE HEALING SERVICE
Psalm 30: 1-3
"I will exalt you, O Lord for you lifted me out of the depths...O Lord, my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord you brought me up from the grave, you spared me from going down into the pit."
The psalmist is expressing gratitude for deliverance. In ancient Israel, a person expressed gratitude by praising the benefactor. The English word "exalt" meaning "to rise on high," or "to glorify, praise and honor," carries the message. The New Testament tells of many healings by our Lord and his disciples, particularly Paul.
Give priority at the healing service to participants unless some personal issue has arisen in the interim that causes a further need for healing prayer. Begin praying now for any ongoing issue needing healing.
DAY 18-Wednesday REDEMPTION
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail."
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
St. Augustine tells us that "God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil at all."
Phillip Yancey tells us in Reaching for the Invisible God, that "There is a depth and richness found in redemption that can be found no where else. Though God may not prevent the hardship of this free and dangerous world, neither did God seek personal immunity from it. If the two greatest commandments are founded on love, how ironic, or perhaps how terrible and wonderful, that God's redemption is founded on the pinnacle of man's inhumanity to man. God calls us to love, but the call came out of our evil and His suffering."
For many who attend Pilgrimage the healing service might prove to be a service of redemption, the most powerful, transforming moment of the weekend. Out of pain, suffering, misfortune, and evil comes redemption, arising out of Christ's own suffering. We respond with acts of worship and thanksgiving that redeem our hearts. Let it be so with each of us---with small measure or large---as God finds us.
DAY 19 -Thursday SUFFERING
"Let us thank God a thousand times if in the sadness that invades us it seems to us we are rejected by the world. The depression and suffering, the bitterness with which we seem sometimes to be soaked, were the lot of our Lord on earth. Are we not fortunate to share them? We should pity the happy people. Pity those whose happiness, even though it be quite legitimate and innocent keeps them attached to the world. God is good that he has so despoiled us of everything, that we can draw breath only by turning our heads toward him. How great is his mercy, how divine his goodness, for He has torn everything from us in order that we may be more completely his. So the sufferers are the happy ones through the goodness of God. In suffering I give thanks."
From Meditations of a Hermit by Charles de Foucauld
Have you known such suffering? What does this prayer say to you?
DAY 20- Friday THANKSGIVING FOR RECOVERY FROM ILLNESS
"I will exalt you, O Lord, for you have lifted me from the depths,
and did not my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the grave,
and spared me from going down into the pit......"
"You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sack cloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever."
Think of a time when God healed you or a loved one, and clothed you with joy. Let your heart sing for joy. Remember!
DAY 21 –Saturday' THE FIRST "CHRISTIANS"
Acts 11: 25-26
"Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. "
Pray for travel mercies for the team and participants as they arrive and depart from Camp Henry for the Pilgrimage weekend.
DAY 22 THE FOURTH SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
"We often hear the criticism that the Church is afflicted with piety, but the real problem is that piety is not deep enough! Since the materials are available, all that is needed is the recognition of where they are, and the will to employ them. An important contribution would be the liberation of the term 'piety' from its present damaging connotations, reinstating it as a term of respect. We indeed still have a little piety; we say a few hasty prayers, we sing meaningfully a few hymns, we read snatches from the Bible. But all of this is far removed from the massive dose that we sorely need if we are to be men and women who can perform the healing service in our generation."
From The New Man for Our Time by Elton Trueblood
True piety is giving our hearts, our minds, and our whole life to God, becoming more Christ-like every day. The most faithful response to God is being the person God intends us to be, not simply doing "Christian" things. Try in your own life to change the negative connotation of the word.
Day 23- Monday THE GLORY OF THE LORD
Exodus 34: 29—33
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them.... When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face..."
Jewish rabbis prior to the third century A.D. interpreted and extended the teachings of the
Hebrew Bible that sometimes put a different "spin" on the original text. Such teachings are called "Mishnah." Second Corinthians includes a Mishnah by Paul, who was a rabbi, setting out a different view regarding Moses' veil.
2 Corinthians 3:13-18
We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. [emphasis added]
Close your eyes, lean back and envision the unceasing radiance of our Lord.
DAY 24 -Tuesday THE PSALMS
The Psalms are essentially prayers. For example, according to rabbinic tradition Psalm 94 was sung in the temple on Thursday as a prayer and the Greek translation adds a heading not in the Hebrew, "A Psalm of David for the fourth day of the week.
In his book, On the Book of Psalms, Exploring the Prayers of Ancient Israel, Nahum M. Sarna, an eminent Jewish scholar tells us that, "In the Law and the Prophets, God reaches out to man. The initiative is His. The message is His. He communicates, we receive. Our God given free will allows us to be receptive, to be accepting, to turn a deaf ear, to reject." On the other hand, "In the Psalms, human beings reach out to God. He receives, He chooses to respond or not, according to His inscrutable wisdom. He gives his assent or withholds it."
Sarna goes on to say that, "For thousands of years, the biblical psalms have nourished, sustained, and elevated the spiritual and moral life of peoples of many faiths. In this age of spiritual and moral chaos they still have something to teach us."
What is your favorite Psalm? Find another Psalm that speaks to you that you may never have studied before. Take up paper and write a Psalm, a prayer to the Lord. It needs no music, only lyrics from your heart.
DAY 25 -Wednesday A CONTINUING PRAYER
A nineteenth century Russian monk wrote in The Pilgrim's Way of keeping one prayer always in his mind: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."
Then there are well known continuing prayers: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," and "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me."
Create your own "continuing prayer." You need not leave your office or your kitchen or your work place to do so. Just pray where you are. Let your kitchen become a cathedral, or your classroom or office a chapel. When driving to work in the morning or home at night, pray silently at every traffic light, at every encounter with stalled traffic. Simple phrases, "Thank you, Father Creator of heaven and earth" or "You are my resting place Lord Jesus," can turn a commute into a pilgrimage. If everyone did this we could see the end of road rage.
Day 26- Thursday THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS (1181-1226)
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
What would you have the Lord make of you? This day? And during Pilgrimage? Think hard! Christ's plan for us is usually beyond what we envision for ourselves.
DAY 27- Friday THE PRAYER OF ST. BENEDICT (480-549)
O gracious and Holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive thee,
Intelligence to understand thee,
Eyes to behold thee, and a life to proclaim thee,
Through the power of the Spirit of Christ our Lord.
DAY 28- Saturday FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along a beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life. This bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Think back to the times in your life when the Lord carried you--- and give thanks.
DAY 29 - THE THIRD SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
Matthew 5 :3-10
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for thy will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The Christian life is not a zero sum game. There is no limit on the blessings available to someone who is in Christ. One can be: poor in spirit, and meek, and merciful, and clean of heart. Think about your own life. How does it match up to the beatitudes?
DAY 30- Monday I WOULD BE TRUE
I would be true, for there are those who trust me,
I would be pure, for there are those who care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer,
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be a friend to all, the foe, the friendless,
I would be giving, and forget the gift.
I would be humble, and I know my weakness,
I would look up and laugh and love and live.
I would be faithful through each passing moment;
I would be constantly in touch with God;
I would be strong to follow where he leads me;
I would have faith to keep the path Christ trod.
Howard A. Walter (1906)
The real question is, "Are you?" And "Are we?" And if not, why not?
DAY 31- Tuesday EVERYTHING HAS A SEASON
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to mend; time to keep silent, and a time to speak; a time to love and time to hate;
a time of war and a time of peace.
Think back over the seasons of your life which have brought you to this point. What do you believe God has been preparing you for?
DAY 32- Wednesday THE SERENITY PRAYER
God grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Often credited to Reinhold Niebuhr.
Pray that you might make this prayer a part of your everyday life--- starting today.
DAY 33- Thursday PRAYER OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA (1515-1582)
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.
Wisdom and guidance from so long ago; open your eyes, your ears, and your heart.
DAY 34- Friday FROM ST. PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE (circa 387-464)
I bind to myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay.
His ear to hearken to my need
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heav'nly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
DAY 35- Saturday THE PRAYER OF JABEZ
I Chronicles 4:10
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying,
"Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil,
that I may not cause pain."
So God granted him what he requested.
ST, AUGUSTINE (354-430)
Thou hast made me for thyself, O Lord
And our heart is restless until it rests in thee.
These words by Augustine have been on the lips of modern day Christians for many decades. Jabez, on the other hand, has been waiting for centuries for his recent popular re-discovery. May his prayer abide with us, and not fade with the New York Times Book Review Best Seller's list!
DAY 36- THE SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury pardon;,
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love,
for it is by giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
This prayer and those of previous days are all wonderful. Now get out your journal and write one of your own ----just for God ---a little secret between the two of you.
DAY 37- Monday MUSIC
"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Be filled with the Holy Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
A Pilgrimage weekend is filled with song. The role of music in worship is clear throughout both the Old and New Testaments. David appointed priests to serve as musicians in the temple services, and spent a lifetime writing psalms to sing. Paul encouraged singing in the passage above, and Augustine wrote in Confessions, "What tears I shed in your hymns and canticles! How deeply was I moved by the voices of your sweet singing church?"
Calvin insisted that music was a gift from God and helped compose songs for the church in Geneva. He wrote, "We know by experience that music has a secret and almost incredible power to move hearts." And Martin Luther wrote, "Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise." He also wrote some of the most popular hymns.
As you sing at Pilgrimage, enjoy the music as a gift from God. Imagine you were there with Christ and his disciples after their last supper together, joining in song to the Almighty God. Sing knowing that Christ is among us as we sing! Listen to the lyrics. Many contain theological truths and quotations from the Bible.
DAY 38 Tuesday HOSPITALITY
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
"Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received me."
Rule of St. Benedict
The scope of who it is that God means to invite to the feast, you see, is not ours to define. We are not put in charge of the guest list.
A Passage Through Sacred History, Don C. Skinner
A story said to originate in a Russian Orthodox monastery has an older monk telling a younger one, "I have finally learned to accept people as they are. Whatever they are in the world, a prostitute, a prime minister, it is all the same to me. But sometimes I see a stranger coming down the road, and I say, 'Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?'"
Dakota, Kathleen Norris
Presbyterian Pilgrimage is firmly committed to the belief that God calls those who come to Pilgrimage as participants. We receive each of them with love and grace. How was hospitality shown to you when you were a participant?
DAY 39- Wednesday PALANCA
"My prayer is not for them alone. I also pray for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me?"
After his last supper with his disciples, the Gospel of John recounts that Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then prayed for all future believers. Jesus prayed for each of us---and for each participant! Think about these words from the Cursillo Manual:
Palanca is addressed to God. It is given to God; therefore all Palanca is given as an expression of communion with God and as a trust in God's gracious provisions. Palanca is inextricably intertwined with prayer, so that without prayer, Palanca is little more than a kindly human gesture. Palanca is given to God, that God may bless it and use it for the conversion of the hearts and minds of the participants. Without this understanding we fall into two dangers. We attempt to usurp God's place and we confuse our participants.
As you write your Palanca notes infuse them with prayer. Offer your words to God, asking him to bless them and to use them to transform hearts and minds.
DAY 40- Thursday PILGRIMS
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Pilgrim as "A religious devotee who journeys to a shrine or sacred place, one who embarks on a quest for something held sacred, a traveler."
The Pilgrimage site is not a sacred place, but the staff and participants will certainly be "travelers" and they are on a "quest." One of the earliest Pilgrims to the Holy Land whose journal has come down to us was a Spanish nun, Egeria who traveled to Mt Sinai, Jerusalem, and Mt Nebo about the fourth century. The English Puritans seeking religious freedom in the New World in 1620 were certainly pilgrims and their story bears an annual re-telling at Thanksgiving. One of the great pilgrimage routes of medieval times was the road stretching from central France, over the Pyrenees Mountains and extending to Santiago de Compostela in northeastern Spain, to the presumed resting place of the apostle St. James. To this day, throngs of pilgrims annually travel all or a part of that route. In the 1940s the leaders of the Catholic Church in Spain met there over a period of years, planning the first Cursillo. Tradition has it that a breakdown of their bus left them with time on their hands, and the result was the song De Colores with its plethora of verses---only some of which are in our song book.
Have you ever done a pilgrimage? If so, reflect upon it. If not, can you think of one you'd like to do. Think of a few verses of your own for De Colores, or better yet, create a few verses for some other Pilgrimage song of your choice.
DAY 41 Friday THE LABYRINTH
Many churches have incorporated the labyrinth into Lenten and Easter rituals. Labyrinths are pathways which historically were set in stone, terrazzo or brick. Today they may be painted on canvas (for portability), stained on floors, or mowed into grass. The most popular form resembles the circular Chartes Cathedral labyrinth in France, built in 1201. Ancient tradition in the French Gothic Cathedrals at Easter was for clergy to walk the labyrinth singing hymns and tossing a golden ball back and forth in the name of the risen Christ. Through the ages, churches have used the labyrinth as a pilgrimage walk when the journey to the Holy Land was too dangerous to make. Many contemporary labyrinth trekkers say they are more comfortable with a physical walk than with sitting in church pews.
From the Christian Century April 5, 2005
DAY 42- Saturday REFORMED THEOLOGY
Presbyterian Pilgrimage (and Presbyterian Cursillo) are different itself from other Cursillo movements by being both co-ed and consistent with Reformed Theology. On the latter point we owe a huge debt to Dr. Fred Keith who made the conversion from the Catholic and Episcopalian versions. The outlines established for the Rollos, including the Bible citations, are all intended to carry out that purpose.
Very briefly, Reformed Theology has the following aspects:
1) There is one God who is creator of all that is and who is Lord over history. God is working out God's purposes in God's time.
2) All of creation exists to glorify God. As Calvin puts it, we live to show God's goodness by our words and deeds, so others may worship him too.
3) Something went terribly wrong with creation As a result of humanity's disobedience and rebellion against God, no one has been able to live up to God's standards. The technical term for this dilemma is "Total Depravity" which means that all facets of our personhood have been infected with sin. The term does not mean that we are totally evil, but rather that there is no aspect of us, heart, mind, soul, and body that is not affected.
4) God's gracious plan was not upset by what occurred; everything was to be brought together in Jesus Christ, God's Son. Jesus' willing sacrifice is what puts "Amazing" into grace. God's grace is unearned, undeserved, and can never be repaid. As the apostle John puts it, "We love God because God first loved us."
5) According to Calvin, there is only one church. It exists where the Word of God is purely preached and heard, and where the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion are administered according to Christ's institution.
6) The Bible is our infallible guide for believing and practicing our Christian faith.
7) In Reformed Theology the church is a confessional church and bears witness to the grace of Jesus Christ through its creeds and confessions.
8) Reformed Theology emphasizes the importance of God's call upon our lives.
9) Reformed Theology attests that Christians should be agents of change in society.
DAY 43- THE SUNDAY BEFORE PILGRIMAGE
Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:12:14:
"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
We read in Isaiah 61: 10-11:
I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me in the garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seed to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations."
Remember that throughout the weekend, from the opening on Thursday evening to the closing prayer on Sunday afternoon, we are serving a risen Lord, and that as we serve the least of the children of God we are serving our Lord.
Remember too, the Continuing Prayer to which you committed on Day 25. Use it to call upon the Lord throughout the weekend. Pray it when you are helping prepare the site on Wednesday, when you are welcoming the participants on Thursday, at the meals throughout the weekend, and especially when you grow tired or discouraged, or you feel the potential for conflict with a fellow staffer. Pray it now.
DAY 44- Monday EQUALITY BEFORE THE LORD
I Corinthians 12:14-18
"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, he would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. And if the ear would say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye where would the sense of hearing be. If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But, in fact, God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."
I Corinthians 12: 25-27
"...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.
So too, the Pilgrimage team is made up of many parts, and there could be no Pilgrimage without each part. Each person preparing a team application, and the rector in receiving them, and the Lord in response to all prayers, create the Pilgrimage team. Pray now for each team member by name.
DAY 45- Tuesday THE FOURTH DAY.
"And O Lord, grant unto me when I return to the common comforts and business of the world, such moderation in all enjoyments, such diligence in honest labour, and such purity of mind that amidst the pleasures of life I may keep my mind fixed upon thee, and improve every day in grace until I shall be received into the kingdom of eternal happiness."
Modified from Doctor Johnson's Prayers, edited by Elton Trueblood
And O Lord. grant unto me when I return to the common comforts and everyday busyness of life, your guidance as to how I might continue to work in the Fourth Day to your glory---be it through preparation of Palanca, support through Prayer Banner.com of other Fourth Day communities as well as our own, participation at future serenades, and closing ceremonies---- as you may lead me.