by Rev. Sam Gutierrez
A number of years ago, I led a group of university students on a four hour walk. We spent weeks memorizing the Psalms of ascent (ancient Jewish pilgrimage songs) and then embarked on our own version of a pilgrimage to “Jerusalem”—a nearby medium-sized hill. We left early in the morning from the university and meandered our way through streets, old neighborhoods, new housing developments and poorly marked trails. As we walked, we talked. We got to know each other. I saw students who didn’t know each other walking side by side sharing stories and building relationships. We sat in parks to rest and we recited the Psalms we had memorized together.
Jesus also walked. Jesus never flew in a plane, rode on a train, drove a car or zipped through dusty streets on a moped or motorcycle. Chances are he never rode in a chariot either—he was too poor for that. Jesus walked. As Jesus walked, he taught, healed, blessed, prayed, challenged, called and formed disciples. Walking is the pace of discipleship. It’s the speed of faith formation. Anything else is just too fast. Human beings were made to walk. Walking is the rhythm of relationship.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the flavors, the variety. But there’s another aspect of Thanksgiving that I like just as much as the feast—the after-dinner walk. This particular walk is mostly a necessity, the result of eating too much. But walking with those who have gathered around the table deepens relationships in a way that eating together does not. Walking is about going on a journey together even if it’s only around the block. It’s the shared journey that bonds. It’s walking shoulder to shoulder. It’s about facing the same direction with purpose.
I’m sensitive as I write this to those who can’t walk because of illness, disability, or age. If you can’t walk, do not be discouraged. Walking is not only physical, it’s also a feeling. It’s a posture. It’s a pace. It’s about slowing down and creating time to build relationship. It’s about breathing deep and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s about journeying alongside someone as they share their story. Thankfully, you don’t have to walk physically to embody the “spirit” of the walk.
I’m also sensitive to our current reality. Because of social distancing, for many of us walking is the only exercise we can do right now. Maybe for the season of Easter (the 50 days following Easter Sunday) we can engage in a “Jesus practice”--the practice of walking. While we walk, we can:
Friends, let me say it again—Jesus walked. What does this mean for faith formation? What if walking wasn’t simply a circumstance of the times that Jesus had to endure, but a way of discipleship?
Jesus walked… maybe we should too?