Thursday, May 26, 2005

Setting Off on a Sacred Trek

I am writing to you from a familiar bench in Freedom Park, my favorite park in Charlotte. But I’m dreaming of benches I have never seen in parks thousands of miles from here.

Tomorrow, I set off on a sacred trek from Rome to Jerusalem. I will journey with two friends along ancient Roman pilgrim routes. As we traverse through the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, we desire to take an honest gaze at the origins and legacy of our Christian faith.

Our pilgrimage West to East will steer us through cities central to the spread of Christianity and countries scarred by religious fragmentation. The path from Rome to Jerusalem has been the stage for some of the most romantic and tragic scenes in two millennia of Christian history - if not, indeed, of world history. It has also served as the backdrop for some of the most reported religious conflicts in the last two decades.

We long to pass through these lands as learners and listeners -- not as confident Crusaders or citizens of a super power. So, we plan to interview people on benches in squares, cathedrals, ancient amphitheaters, train stations, temples, gardens, mosques and maybe even at the Hard Rock Café in Beirut.

We will ask two questions:

1. How would you describe God?
2. What would you like Americans to understand about your country?

We don’t know what to expect, but we are praying for divine encounters and holy serendipity. We desire to discover the sacred en route – not simply stationed in ruins and relics but also present in people.

We have an ambitious itinerary, and at this moment it feels more like The Amazing Race than a hallowed holiday. But soon we will be on the road, and as we travel I plan to send you a few postcards to let you know who we meet on those benches along the way.

This journey feels like a dream set in motion. When asked what compels me to go, I confess I can't fully explain it. I am stirred and stilled by adventure. I am moved by the dance of the past and the present. I love seeing God work in the world and sharing those stories with others. However, I suspect greater understanding will be found on the road.

I look forward to sharing this sacred trek with you!