Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Pilgrimage reflection

This entry is stimulated by the Peacechurch's intention to do a pilgrimage walk through the centre of Birmingham. The idea was developed from a comment that I made at a table talk as we looked at things the group might do. I won't be joining them on the walk because I will be going to worship at a citadel of speed, the MotoGP meeting at Silverstone. To some extent, this shows how much I am also entwined in the system that this entry reflects upon.

A pilgrimage through the city streets isn't really a new experience for me but it is one that I would like to have done with Peacechurch and its Anabaptist spirituality. When I passed through London on my way back from Canterbury, Kent, I walked from St Pancras station to Euston station. It is a short walk and gave time to reflect on the journey and my reading of Brian McLaren's (2007) book. As I looked at the construction signs for new apartments above and around St Pancras, I was drawn to think about what is happening in our society and the focus of our worship. The reflection here continues some of those thoughts.

City Pilgrimage

As I walk between the buildings, I am asking "what do these represent?" I have to say that I am not without bias. Are these the centre of the modern world, the rhythm of of life, and / or the centre of modern worship?

What are the consequences of what happens here? If it stops or slows down, what impact does it have? If it speeds up, what are the consequences? Does what happens in this financial core really carry any weight for how I live and interact on a day-to-day basis? How much of what happens here should impact people's daily lives?

If Jesus walked these streets, what would he have to say about this environment? Does the action of the cleansing of the temple apply? How about the year of jubilee? Would he cry out for workers saying the harvest is ready? How would he apply making peace with your accusers? How would he seek to claim back these people and the institutions that they have created or would he see it as a lost cause? Possibly more importantly what is Jesus saying to me about my involvement and possibly acceptance of these institutions and systems?

If I don't see them as what God desires then what are the alternatives to what I see? Should we be looking toward community centred activity and / or transition towns? Is a return to subsistence living what God desires? Should we simply discard the technological gains and return to living off the land? Is there a middle ground that would uphold God's principles and desires?

Yes, I have a lot of questions as I walk amongst these city buildings and the institutions that they represent. It isn't easy to live as God's servant amongst the human institutions and systems that surround us.

The citadel of speed

But it isn't a pilgrimage walk through the city that I will be doing this weekend. Instead of worshipping at or among the citadels of finance and business, I will be worshipping at the citadel of speed, the roaring engine, and the cheering crowd.

What do I see? A celebration of man's engineering and creativity; the worship of a rising speed king in the presence of a falling star; or a celebration of speed? Possibly all of these things.

How does Jesus react? Does he desert me and leave me to enjoy the day or does he walk with me seeking me to reflect? Would Jesus call for an end to 'progress'? What would Jesus' heart cry to these people be or is he totally irrelevant in this context?

Yes, I will worship at the citadel of speed but my worship isn't simply a praise of man's achievements. My heart will cry for God to bring meaning to our human emphasis on progress at all costs.

A reflection

Man so loved his riches and his wealth that
he cut down and polluted all of God's creation
he enslaved his fellow man within his wealth creation and management systems
so that he destroyed their ability to enjoy all that God had created.

When man saw the damage that he had done
he argued over how to restore the balance
he gave priority to maintaining the wealth creation system and balancing the accounts.

When he saw the poverty of his fellow man
he argued that balancing the wealth creation system took priority
he contended that to restrict growth of wealth for the rich would cripple the system, and stop the rich creating opportunities for the poor
he said the poor enslaved themselves because they didn't take the opportunities given.

Those who rejected the wealth creation system
cultivated the land to maintain its productivity
learnt its rhythms and its cycle of production
shared with their neighbours from what the land produced
drank deep of the nectar of friendship and never accounted for the exchange of goods
relinquished financial wealth for the deep riches of community and the beauty of what God had created
enjoyed the fruits of their labours and found health and vitality in the fellowship of others.

Need technological advancement halt? If it enhances the well-being of all things on this planet then why should it be halted? It is the direction of travel that is important.


McLaren, B. D. (2007). Everything must change: when the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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