what pilgrims do

Come, Bless the LORD
A Song of Ascents. Psalm 134.

1 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the LORD!
3 May the LORD bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!

It was early evening when we ended our trek in the lower Himalayas, crossing a suspension bridge into Syabrubesi, returning to the hotel where our trip began. There were showers at last, and at least some of them warm. There were thicker mattresses and better food. And there was even a birthday party for two of the girls who turned 21 that very day.

What there was mostly was thanksgiving. We were grateful that we made it. We were grateful that we did it. We were grateful for the people who served us and the bonds we had made, with them and each other. And we were grateful for the Lord’s help, each step of the way.

The Psalms of Ascent end on such a note, a brief call to bless the Lord. And to be blessed by him. The Lord who made the mountains had kept us safe as we crossed them and brought us nearer home.

The Hebrew pilgrims too, after climbing the mountains toward Zion, had arrived and stayed up all night in the temple, lifting their hands and praising the Lord. They had begun, in Psalm 120, leaving a place of deceit and violence, and along the way they had sung the songs of Zion, several of them written by David, one by Solomon, and several by musicians we do not know. They had sung about God provision and protection. They had longed for his city and his kingdom. And his Messiah. And now they had arrived in unity and joy.

“Come bless the Lord all you servants of the Lord,” they sang together. It is both invitation and command: “Lift up your hands to the Holy place and bless the Lord. “

Bruised. Tired. Hungry. Grateful. This is the end of our journey and it is the rhythm of our lives. And regardless of how we feel, we must bless the Lord, for he reigns in Zion and his people will arrive safely home.

This is the last of a series on the Psalms of Ascent, which begins where pilgrims start. This series, based on a trek in Nepal compares that experience with that of Hebrew pilgrims who hiked through the mountains to Jerusalem. There are 15 Psalms in the series.

Starting next week, each Monday through the summer, I will be posting a meditation from the Gospels.

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