Saturday, March 07, 2009

Pilgrim's progress

Back in the 19C, “Argonauts,” as they were termed, traveled the Oregon Trail or California Trail to settle the West Coast. It was an arduous trek. Not everyone who began the journey made it to his destination. There were many fatalities along the way, due to accident, exposure, old age, malnutrition, snakebite, Indian war parties, and various diseases like cholera, scurvy, small pox, typhoid, tuberculosis, diphtheria, dysentery, pneumonia, scarlet fever, yellow fever, whooping cough, malaria, measles, mumps, &c.

The death of a loved one is always a wrenching experience, but it would be the more so in this case. Families traveled to get together to avoid leaving anyone behind. And now they had to leave their fallen loved ones behind, buried in an unmarked grave–to lessen the risk of desecration.

In the Christian pilgrimage, the walk of faith has a 100% morality rate. Everyone who embarks on this journey dies on this journey. And the survivors bury their dead.

Yet the Christian pilgrimage is a paradox. Although we bury our fellow pilgrims, who–sooner or later–were felled by death, and forge ahead with a heavy-heart, we leave no one behind.

On the walk of faith, none of the faithful fails to reach his destination. Although they die along the way, and seem to lie behind, they go ahead of us. They await us. They form a welcoming party to greet us when our own time comes. Although we end at different times, we end up at the same rendezvous. Although we finish at different places, we find ourselves at the same place.

For the Christian pilgrim, death doesn’t cut us down before we reach our destination. Death is, instead, the means of reaching our destination. The finish line.

There’s a sense in which unbelievers share the same trail. They are fellow travelers in life and death.

Yet, at the moment of death, there’s a fork in the road. Two destinations in place of one. How you were walking in life foreshadows where you come out in death.

Because the unbeliever walks by sight instead of faith, he lacks the eye of faith to see the final destination over and above the last row of hills–where we part company with the unbeliever, and enter Immanuel’s land.

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