Pilgrimage, Spirit and Truth

An article in today’s Washington Post considers how religious pilgrimage is one of the growing trends of our age. A trend accomodated by cheaper travel and internet information. The piece focuses upon a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia where there was supposedly an appearance by the Virgin Mary.

The trend is problematic for Christians for a number of reasons. Leaving aside reservations about Mariolatry, of which I have many, this article exposed to contemporary trend which are problematic. The first is how one person saw the idea of physical pilgrimage as reflecting spiritual pilgrimage where a person discovers the pilgrimage within. The object of the pilgrimage is not to discover God who is there but to uncover something within ourselves. Contrary to orthodox Christian teaching, and reflecting wider spiritual trends, the answer to our needs is discovered within ourselves rather than looking beyond ourselves to a right relationship with God.

The second problematic area is that the worship of God is being allied to a particular place. This is clearly contrary to Jesus own teaching that God is not to be worshipped in a particular place but ‘in spirit and in truth.’ This idea reflects not only a faulty understanding of true worship but is, we are told in the article, part of wider trend where people want to discover God in new ways. That brings to mind the old adage ‘you worship God in your way, and I’ll worship him in his way.’

The new trend towards pilgrimage reflects the spiritual confusion of our age- the smorgasbord effect as Os Guinness once called it. It calls us to once recognise the need to present the Christian message with biblical clarity and not to be conformed to the spiritual values of our age.

You can read the article at-

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/24/AR2007062401422.html

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4 Responses to “Pilgrimage, Spirit and Truth”

  1. pilgrim2000 Says:

    >

    So what was God doing, allowing Jesus to be born in a place called Bethlehem?

    We are of flesh and Spirit.

  2. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the question pilgrim. When God allowed Jesus to be born at Bethlehem it had a 3-fold significance. In the first instance as Matthew chapter 2 makes clear it was in fulfillment of Scripture. Secondly, just as David was born in Bethlehem so his greater son Jesus was also born there. Thirdly, the lowliness of Bethlehem in its ranking as a city was symbolic of Jesus own condescension. None of which sanctifies this place in the sense of it being a place where God is specifically present.
    Rather we are as I noted in the original post called to worship God not in specific sites- there is no sacred space-but in spirit and in truth. Furthermore Jesus promise is to be with us always even to the ends of the earth.
    I’m not quite sure what you are trying to convey in your comment ‘We are of flesh and spirit.’

  3. pilgrim2000 Says:

    More questions:

    So why did Jesus pray in the temple and refer to it as a holy place, his Father’s house?

    Why did Mary and Joseph go to the Temple to present Jesus to God?

    Why was Jesus found teaching in the Temple?

    Are not these not sacred spaces?

  4. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks once again for the questions pilgrim. In John 4 Jesus tells the woman of Samaria “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” So he acknowledges that presently there was a place of worship in Jerusalem- the temple- but the time is coming when there will be no sacred place in Jerusalem. Why?
    Back in John 2 when Jesus rids the temple of the money changers the Jews ask for a sign of his authority. We read, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.” In other words Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple. Those who truly worship God do not come to a physical place but to him.
    Indeed the New Testament goes on to make clear that God’s people, the church, are part of the new temple insofar as they are those who are united to Christ. see 1 Corinthians 3 and Ephesians 2.

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