Pilgrims Marching On

When I lived in Winona MN I served a church that was named after a hero of Midwest Methodism. Dr. William McKinley, (cousin of President McKinley) authored a book about the history of Methodism in Minnesota. Written in 1911, the book originally was owned by some women in Minneapolis but somehow made it down the river to where I was living. Dr. McKinley was a beloved pastor and friend to a much earlier generation, so much so, that their children would share memories of what they had heard. From all the stories I was told and the pieces of his writing which survived, I came to admire him for both his love for God’s people and his devotion to Christ. I wished I could have had a sit down conversation with this giant in the faith.

His love for God shines through his writing as does his love for people, reflected in a sermon about the Transfiguration. Dr. McKinley talks about the transitory nature of our lives against the changeless Christ, “The inner life of a person corresponds with the outer life, and in both the absolute and immutable forever eludes one. We are never long in one state. Our spiritual life ebbs and flows like the tides of the sea. Our way is not along a dead level, but up and down, over hills and valleys. We scale the mountains, but may not tarry on the heights. There is no place where we can build tabernacles and stay. A voice which must be heeded is forever saying, ‘Arise and depart for this is not your rest.’ We are pilgrims and must march on through changing scenes; we are soldiers and must fight on through varying fortunes.”

I found after retirement that the call to ministry didn’t end with my decision to retire. The tug at the heart to be a follower of the one who saw his mission as binding up the brokenhearted, bringing good news to the poor and setting captives free never goes away. In my seminary years one of my favorite songs was “We are Gathered Here Together” by Doris Ellzey Blesoff. The lyrics tell the story of a new beginning, an adventure awaiting, but uncertainty in the direction we are going. The song concludes:

“Well, we know God’s reign is coming
and we know it won’t come easy,
but still we trust our vision of the smile on Future’s face.

We’re traveling on a road we’ve never seen before,
and, oh, it’s hard to know which way to go.
But somewhere there’s a promise
‘bout distant shore that those who seek will someday know.”
– Doris Ellzey Blesoff, “We Are Gathered”

We have this call to faithfulness and commitment. We are drawn ever more fully into the circle of God’s love and grace so we can draw others into the circle. We are pilgrims on a journey who know that what we seek, we will some day know.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . . ” Hebrews 12:1

Previously published as Pilgrims on a Journey, February 23, 2015

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