Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I am addressing you as pilgrims, quite seasonal isn’t it? But there is much more to being a pilgrim than celebrating Thanksgiving Day with Native Americans. By definition, a pilgrim is a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to a sacred place for religious reasons.
The pilgrims of Thanksgiving Day were a group of English Puritans, persecuted in their own country, who emigrated to America. The first group arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. They landed at Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts, and established the Plymouth Colony, with the Mayflower Compact as their constitution. William Bradford and Miles Standish were noted leaders of the colony. As Christians, we too are pilgrims. In fact one commentator claims that one cannot be a Christian without being a pilgrim, traveling through this world.
THE BIBLE is full of pilgrimages. There were three pilgrim feasts in the Old Testament, when the people would go to Jerusalem. There was the Passover, which commemorated the deliverance from Egypt. Pentecost commemorated the end of the grain harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles marked the end of the agricultural working year, also recalling the wilderness journeyings.
All these feasts involved pilgrimages, which reminded the people that all of life is a pilgrimage. On the journey they sang the pilgrim psalms, or songs of degrees (Psalms 120-134), especially during the final ascent to the city. The pilgrim theme was a major feature of the OT calendar.
The pilgrim concept for Christians is especially vital at the present time, when an increasing number of evangelicals advocate being ‘culturally progressive’ or ‘culturally relevant’, exhorting us to get much more into the world. The very word ‘pilgrim’ sounds a warning, reminding us of our duty to be distinctive and set apart for Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of it. Why?
1 John 2:16-17
For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.