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Wandering or marching?

"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." Hebrews 13.14

Today is World Tourism Day! Tourism is a product of leisure on an industrial scale, which is now celebrated at a global level. It feeds countless businesses worldwide, through providing an outlet for millions of holiday-makers seeking a change of scene in which to indulge whichever form of recreation they choose to pay for. It is estimated that tourism accounts for about 10% of global GDP.

A recent phenomenon, tourism as such does not appear in the Bible. For the vast majority of people, life was experienced much closer to the margins of survival. Yet it was not all miserable drudgery. The Bible is replete with instructions for the high days and holidays which punctuated the life of the nation. The aim was not solely indulgence, for there was a higher purpose, involving social cohesion and the worship of Almighty God.

That is not to deny that people traveled. Alongside the delineation of religious festivals, run accounts of epic journeys of migration, under Abraham and Moses, and mission, by Paul and the apostles. Most formatively, perhaps, was the experience of Israel in exile - first in Egypt and, much later, in Babylon. Neither was a holiday, yet both played a significant part in shaping the nation and, through Israel, the biblical inheritance we all share.

Underlying all the liminality is the awareness that we are all on the move. Whence cometh this restlessness? For some it is curiosity, others are driven by necessity. Christians recognise it as our yearning for the fulness of God's redemptive activity, which is bringing about the renewal of creation. The Gaelic word cianalas conveys this deep sense of yearning which, in terms of recreational travel, finds expression in religious pilgrimage.



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