The Lost Art of Pilgrimage

One woman's experience with the Fifth Gospel, and what it means for the rest of us
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I wrestled with God on the Temple Mount, while remembering Jesus' anger against the money changers and considering the times I have mixed my faith with impure motives for personal gain. I wrestled with God in the Judean desert, trying to out-worship the rocks which cried out in praise as they reflected the majesty of their Creator.

I wrestled with God at Golgotha as I encountered what I can only describe as a near death experience. I stood holding a cross at the rock which should have been the place of my own death and cried at the realization of my helplessness and his sacrifice. I wrestled with God in Gethsemane while trying to pray the most excruciating prayer of all—"Not my will, but yours"—and feeling the first pains of dying to self.

This trip was my personal Peniel. I feel a slight limp, but I have seen God's face and that makes the pain more than worthwhile.

Follow Him

Like Peter, the emerging generation would prefer to jump out of the boat and take the risk of sinking rather than to never experience the momentary thrill of walking on water. As leaders, we need to find opportunities to let them take that leap.

Jesus challenges us: "Come follow me." We can follow him right where we are, but our best attempts often leave us longing for something more.

Emerging generations struggle to find authentic expression for Jesus' call to an adventure that extends beyond the walls of a church building. Pilgrimage conveys the mystery and adventure of our faith better than thirty minutes of our best exegesis and metaphors on Sunday mornings.

It's time to call the emerging church to an exploration of the 5th Gospel.

—Heather Zempel is Pastor of Discipleship at National Community Church in Washington, D.C., copyright © 2009. Used with permission of National Community Church.

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