Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pilgrims -- Or Tourists?

“The true knowledge of the way, with the walking in the way, is reserved for God’s child, for God’s traveller.” So said early Quaker writer Isaac Penington. Penington's quotation came to mind while I've been reading Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower. Nancy and I (with our daughter Lisa and son-in-law Mark) just came back from visiting many of the places Philbrick mentions when we toured New England this autumn, so his book holds more than historical interest to me. As does the concept of being a a pilgrim.

Being a pilgrim is a concept that often gets lost in today’s tourist-y world. A few years ago, some folks from the church where I was pastor let me lead them on a tour of historic Quaker sites. On the first evening of our trip, the group ate together in a restaurant. The waitress tried to figure out our relationship – club, family, etc. When I tried to explain what we were doing, she said “Oh, like a pilgrimage.” I squirmed a bit to hear it put that way, but in a way, she was right. We had a greater purpose than just sight-seeing. We were learning about the roots of our faith and why we were the type of Quakers we were.

Being a pilgrim is a good thing. To be pilgrims means that we are people who are spending our lives going someplace – in our case, going to God. Deep down, in our souls, we realize that this world (as the old hymn says) is not our home, we are “just a’passin’ through.” We are a traveling people. It is up to us whether we will be tourists or pilgrims.


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