Tonight, I went on a pilgrimage with our youth at church (whom I adore, by the way!). We did not go far. 1st Ave. in downtown Nashville was our farthest point, and we started at 4th (well, technically the journey began at 21st where our church building resides, but we started walking at 4th). In just those few blocks, however, we silently trekked the streets of Music City (well, most of the youth remained silent, that is). We traveled expecting to see God.
Even though we live in NashVegas, these particular streets are not streets we frequent. The occasional Titans game, music festival or out-of-town visitor might drag us to these streets, but we rarely walk them with pilgrim feet, hearts and eyes during those times.
Tonight my pilgrim eyes were most moved by the very end of our pilgrimage. We reflected on our calling to hospitality--to be in our community and open ourselves up to share our gifts with the community of strangers and friends we will encounter throughout life. So then we sat in front of the brand new symphony hall to hold our "Christ Candle" time. This weekly ritual invites us to pass around our candle (or our battery-powered lantern, as the case was tonight) and reflect on moments we've encountered God through the week. When the sharing/examen ends, we stand and give the UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) benediction.
Toward the end of our sharing, a man walked to our circle. He looked familiar with this part of town, possibly more familiar with the streets than we hoped for him. I don't know. He paused. He listened as the last person shared. When we stood up to speak the benediction, he placed his camo backpack and red hat on the ground. Without a word and with hands outstretched to join ours, he marched to the circle ready to pray. Grant and Kyle (two of our senior high youth) reached to him, as well, stepping away from one another to make space for our neighbor to join the circle. We prayed, smiled at one another through our benediction and twisted out of the circle.
He never said a word. Maybe he spoke to someone else; I did not hear him. I do not know his name. His presence, after engaging in conversation about hospitailty, was like being tucked into warm satin sheets and receiving a kiss on the forehead by Jesus who whispers to me:
rest well, sweet child and open
not just your eyes with the
but wake up and open your
circles, your church building, your
life, your hands and grab mine