The Rev’d Edward Erb
Grace Church, Honesdale

After Wikipedia, The Oxford English Dictionary is my prime source of information. OED defines Pilgrimage as “a journey (usually of considerable duration) made to some sacred place, as an act of devotion.”

A colleague reminded me recently in a separate context that our Anglican book of theology is the Hymnal. And so I agreed to this “assignment” (read, “invitation”) from another colleague, because the Hymnal is my book of theology.

When asked to write this blog, I had to consider what I thought of as a personal pilgrimage. And with the hymn I selected (to be sung at my funeral, by the way), I realized that
a) life itself is a pilgrimage, and
b) we are each called by God to work in the harvest of the kingdom.

I’m with the prophet Jeremiah and the Psalmist who believe they were known and called by God before they were formed in the womb. With the very first breath we begin a Pilgrimage. With each step we take, we continue on that movement to a sacred place. We feel drawn to the heavenly joys of rest after our labors here on earth, and for that reason, I selected one of those hymns that I cannot sing without tearing up (OK, I admit to being a “sap”).

“Come, labor on” (The Hymnal 1982 #541) is a constant call to me. Confession time: I struggle with the professional tragedy of a need to be needed, and to be relevant and responsible. When a summer sabbatical’s plans changed a couple of years ago, I had a great difficulty being idle. “Come, labor on. Who dares stand idle…” I get frustrated and depressed when I’m not doing something. And living so close to the parish Church (luckily not in the Rectory, but 4 blocks away), nonetheless it was still difficult for me not to go down to the Church to get something, check on something, plan something for the Fall when I was to return. I couldn’t sit idle. Maybe I take this hymn, and God’s call, too seriously some times.

And yet, in that summer sabbatical while I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, I realized the importance of not pushing too hard, too far, and the need for idleness. Even on a journey, in the harvest field – that’s why we have sabbaticals after all! – and even possibly on pilgrimage. But I need to stop and contemplate that one.

In part two (tomorrow) of this offering, I’ll dig deeper into the hymn of our shared theology of mission and calling. Come, let us labor on, together.