“Here we are but straying pilgrims,” the line of an old hymn came to mind as my husband, mother, and I visited our American heritage sites in and around Boston this fall. Reserving our last day to take the commuter train the 40 miles down to Plymouth for a short day trip, we had our day planned well in our minds. Our 2006 guidebook showed that the Plymouth Area Link bus made regular runs between the train station and downtown. We’d have no problems, or so we thought.
It finally became clear that we were alone in an abandoned area and we were advised that the bus service was quite irregular, and that we should call a taxi from numbers posted at the station. None of the phone numbers were in operation, so we started off past the abandoned shopping center for our hike into town, pushing my 93-year-old mother in the rented wheelchair. We were met at the street corner by an 85-year-old professor at the nearby community college wondering what we were doing. He recognized that we obviously could use his help. He left on his motor scooter to go to the next town to get his car so that he could give us his own private historical tour. He became the highlight of our entire trip with his New England hospitality. Not only was he a professor, he had six university degrees, was a historian, author, artist, and wonderful host. We were given a tour that we never could have planned on our own! I credit our good fortune with God’s providential care.
Standing on that street corner wondering which way to go, we truly felt like “pilgrims” in the area where the first Pilgrims lived. Being in that area caused me to reflect and appreciate the Pilgrims, as we commonly call the Puritan Separatists who left Europe for religious freedom. We have much to appreciate about them. They left, at least a shaky security of the known for the unknown, established the first democracy in the New World with the Mayflower Compact, and set the precedent for us in their first Thanksgiving harvest celebration feast after only half of their group survived the harsh winter.
Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s people being pilgrims, sojourners, or alien strangers, depending upon the translation used. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the children of Israel in Egypt are spoken of as being in a land that did not belong to them. They were pilgrims, sojourners, and strangers (cf. Genesis 12:12; 20:1; 21:34; 26:3; 35:27; 47:4; Exodus 6:4). During the famine in Canaan during the time of the judges, Elimelech, Naomi, and their sons were also pilgrims as they lived temporarily in Moab. Hebrews 11:13-16 tells us of many heroes of faith who were strangers, pilgrims, or exiles from their land.
The New Testament tells us that we too are aliens and strangers here on earth (cf. I Peter 1:17; 2:11). However, it seems that we have become too comfortable here on earth, prolonging our lives and planning for our earthly future. Have we forgotten that this life is only temporary and very short? Perhaps we should look again at Jesus’ parable of the rich foolish farmer who greedily prepared to relax and be set for the future, but did not plan for a future with God. Jesus called him a fool and said that very night his soul would be required to give an account (Luke 12:18ff).
Let’s remember that heaven is our new home in Our New World. Paul reminds us of this fact when he said, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We are only pilgrims and sojourners here. This is temporary. Heaven is eternal where we can offer eternal thanksgiving to God for our salvation from eternal separation from God.
Let’s not live as if this earth is our eternal home. Let’s make sure that our eternal destination arrangements for heaven are secure. Jesus is ready to escort us into heaven, our final and much anticipated destination! “All aboard!”
by Louise “Weezie” Burger
Weezie and her husband, Wayne, serve with the Conifer church of Christ near Denver, CO. She is an instructor in the Bear Valley Bible Institute women’s program and enjoys her three grandchildren.