Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  

Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

“The pilgrim travels differently” said John O’Donohue.  This is certainly true. When I am travelling to Hereford or perhaps to Hay or one of the villages I’m travelling with the purpose of getting there.  There’ being not here or anywhere on the journey; no ‘there’ is the destination and the destination alone.

Of course, a pilgrim also travels to a destination, but somehow, as many of those who have been on pilgrimage will testify, the journey is just as important as the destination. The word ‘Pilgrim’ comes from a word meaning stranger, and of course, the moment we leave home we become a stranger, walking through a strange land.

You might be wondering, at this moment, what all this has to do with the opening words. Notice the words remember, turn, and return.  To me they signify a movement from where one is now, and moving, going somewhere else.  To repent is to return to God.  To repent, then is to go on a journey.

About ten years ago there was a Natural World programme called Earth Pilgrim.  It was written and presented by Satish Kumar and it was about his home landscape of Dartmoor.  It was a pilgrimage through the year from winter to winter.

The scientist Richard Dawkins, amongst many books, has written one called The Ancestor’s Tale, sub-titled A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life.  Looking at human evolution he does not go on ajoumey from the beginning of life to us as Human beings, rather he begins with us and journeys back through our ancestors to the beginning of Life, reminding us of who we are, not a summit or pinnacle of creation, but one leaf on the Tree of Life.

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life...

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air...”

To be an Earth Pilgrim is to journey in mind, and perhaps also through landscape, towards a proper picture or oneself, we are “clay creatures” made from the minerals of the earth, which in turn were formed from a long-dead star. Looked at from this point of view we turn from thinking that we human beings are somehow the greatest of beings, and remember that we are Earth, and one day Earth will have us again. Between now and then, Earth will sustain us. To be an Earth Pilgrim is to become, with each step, more aware of what we truly are, and, in theory, that should lead us to humility, a word that itself derives from humus, the soil or the ground.


Vicar’s thoughts for March 2018