Have you ever noticed in the stories of the bible that whenever God approaches someone, there’s always a request to travel or to go somewhere. In the book of Genesis, God approaches Abram and instructs him to travel from the Land of Ur to Canaan, and then to Egypt and back. After Abram, his son Isaac, and his son Jacob, each traveled until eventually the People of Israel found themselves living in Egypt until the story of the Exodus. Elijah and Elisha, along with all the other prophets, they all went when God beckoned. We might conclude that God is in the business of moving people, though not as a moving company does, but directing people from one state of existence to a better place in life.
Over time, such travels are the foundation for the idea of pilgrimages. In the book The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau writes: “Pilgrimage is the kind of journeying that marks just this move, from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel.” He continues, “By definition such trips are life-changing.”
God is clearly in the business of changing lives for the better. Fourteen years ago I moved to Ketchikan with my family in response to a call to serve as pastor of First Lutheran Church. As you know, life in Southeast Alaska is unlike any other community down south. Despite a little excessive rain, the goodness of life is found hiking in the woods, fishing out on the water, as well as participating in the many community activities of art, theater, sports, music and more. I’ve said many times, if someone is bored in Ketchikan it’s because they chose to be so.
And now a new chapter of life awaits as I retire from ministry. I’ve been a pastor over 32 years and am excited to see the new direction my life will take. Like many pilgrims before me, I’m not sure where the path will lead, nor what dangers or opportunities for growth await, but I know for certain that God will show me the way and that a better life awaits.
In this, my final Perspectives column (I think), I want to thank the wonderful people of Ketchikan for their love and support as you welcomed me and my family. We have been blessed in many ways. May these words from Psalm 121, words that have shaped my life since my ordination, bring us hope and comfort in our pilgrimages.
“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 7-8)
The Rev. Keith Anderson is retiring this month as pastor of First Lutheran Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.