Monday, December 01, 2008

A pilgrim's song

Read Psalm 122

This is one of the psalms of Ascents. For untold centuries, those folks journeying to Jerusalem for their annual pilgrimage to the temple would sing, chant, or whisper these songs. The evocative nature of these songs, with their imagery, hopes, prayers, thanksgivings, would speak to the pilgrims of their deepest longings to be in those places where they would find the presence of God resting, waiting for them. And since the Hebrews believed that God's presence, God's glory, resided in the Holy of Holies in the temple, no wonder these songs became a part of that pilgrimage, giving voice to these longings, and became a part of our faith heritage.

But when we journey to the hospital, and visit a friend or family member; when we listen to their hopes for recovery, their fears of what the tests might show, their anxiety about undergoing surgery; when we pray for their healing, are we not seeking their good?

When we are behind the counter at the soup kitchen, making sandwiches from the simple gifts provided by others; when we are standing at the stove stirring the soup rich with vegetables and other needed nutrition; when we say a prayer for the food and for those who would be nourished by this feast; when we open the doors and invite them in, and willingly become a part of their lives, listening to their stories, letting them minister to us with their grace and hope, are we not in the Holy of Holies?

When we go down to the local school and work with a 2nd grader who reads at a kindergarten level; when we visit the retirement center and aid a man's trembling hands as he paints a ceramic angel for his grandchildren's Christmas gift; when we knock on the newly widowed neighbor's door and invite him to Sunday dinner, and listen to his silent grief; when we take our dog for a walk and slow him down from trying to catch a squirrel, so a child can rub his ears until their grins match; when we simply go to all those places where we are surprised to find God already there . . .

aren't we already inside Jerusalem's gate, where God whispers to each and every one of us, 'peace be within you'?

Prayer: No long distant pilgrimages are needed, are they, Holiness of our hearts, for you are in our midst, in the people, in the places, in the sounds and silence of our lives. Open our hearts, open our eyes, and quiet us in holy stillness, even as we journey as Advent pilgrims. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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