People have always made pilgrimage for a specific reason. In Micah we are told that people will stream to the Lord’s house ‘that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’. This results in the people beating ‘their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks’ that none shall ‘lift up the sword’ or ‘learn war any more’. When done with our focus on God, pilgrimage should always give us a radical change of heart.
They say that on the Camino de Santiago each pilgrim meets both God and the devil. Perhaps this ties in well with the ever popular cliché that it’s not so much the destination that matters as the journey. In recent times many have done their journey of pilgrimage without really knowing what their reason is, only that there is one. What they often find is that the real pilgrimage begins when they get home. That radical change of heart can take a while to manifest as they process their pilgrimage, but it is there and it is a gift from God for the establishment of a kingdom based on love, where the people of God do not take up the sword but instead plough and sow and share. The heart pilgrimage manifests is ultimately a settled heart. A heart that serves its community with practical application of grace and love. The pilgrimage is not the default state of the Christian, but one that builds us to build the Kingdom of God.
There are many traditional pilgrimage routes throughout the UK listed on the British Pilgrimage Trust’s website, some for only a few days. Why not take a short pilgrimage to reflect on your role in your community and how you may be able to beat swords into ploughshares? In the age of austerity, gardening can be a radical act, and radical food politics is more relevant than ever before. Some interesting community organisations you may wish to get involved in or take inspiration from include Food Not Bombs and Incredible Edibles.
God my guide and companion,
Thank you that you lead us as we make pilgrimage and stay with us as we engage in our communities. May you take me on a pilgrimage of the heart. Change me and make me more aware of my community, both local and global. May you use me to challenge unjust political and social structures through practical and prayerful commitment to my community.
Written by Adam Spiers, an SCM Member who walked the Camino de Santiago in 2017.