This past Sunday I shared an illustration in my sermon, noting the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim. It was a hopeful analogy as I move toward the completion of a Certificate of Spiritual Formation from Columbia Theological Seminary which requires a pilgrimage as part of the experience. They offer pilgrimages to Scotland, to the Holy Land, or to the southwest in the United States rather than tours. I share this information as a lead-in to this wonderful story called “Can I See God?”
One day a young boy came up and asked his busy father, “Can I see God?” “NO!” the testy father replied in a harsh, emphatic way as he went about his many tasks. The boy walked away quietly into his room where, full of sadness at the way he had been treated, cried himself to sleep.
The next day, as his summer vacation began, the little boy went into the woods to ponder his question – can I see God? No luck. But he returned, day after day, to gaze at the trees swaying in the wind, the birds building their nests, and the shadows dappling the ground, but still he had no answer.
Then one day he met an old fisherman. He was rugged and simple – and friendly. He invited the boy to go fishing with him, and they became fishing pals.
On the way out the door one day, the boy’s father stopped him and asked: “Son, how are you spending your time these days?” The boy replied, “I have found a good friend in an old fisherman, and we fish together every day on the river.”
“What kind of man is he?” the father asked. The boy thought a moment…“Father, he doesn’t talk much, so I don’t know for sure, but last evening, right before dark, we were sitting in the boat together. The sun was setting – brilliant oranges and reds and purples filling the sky. It was awesome! The old man just sat there gazing at the sunset, and his eyes filled with tears. This was my opportunity, I thought, so I reached out and touched his shoulder, and said, ‘I wouldn’t ask anybody else this question but…Can anyone see God?’ There was no answer. The old man sat there gazing at the sunset. ‘C….c…can you see God.’ I asked again. Then the old turned around at me. His face had a strange light in it, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He said to me softly, tenderly: “Boy, it is getting so I can see nothing but God.” And I had my answer.
On Wednesday during Bible study, I offered a medieval proverb of pilgrims walking to holy places that makes even greater sense in light of this story. I offer it to you again in hopes that one day you will be able to voice what the old fisherman voiced. “If you do not travel with him whom you seek, you will not find him at the end of your journey.”
See you Sunday,