After Sunday: Tourists, Pilgrims, and Seekers

Are we spiritual tourists? Spiritual pilgrims? Spiritual seekers? Is there a transformation (a transfiguration) that is constantly taking place within us if we are open to it?

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield provided some of the fodder for our thinking today on three texts –

  1. Abram’s call from God to journey to a “promised land” – Genesis 12:1-.
  2. Christ transfigured on a mountain – observed by several of his disciples who want to capture the moment – Matthew 17:1-9.
  3. The good news that “Once those who were ‘no people’ have become God’s people” – I Peter 2:1-10.

The children considered just what our church looks like:

  1. Is it a beautiful building – empty?
  2. A beautiful building full of people worshiping?
  3. A community of people serving as Christ would serve?

The children seemed to mostly agree that it was #’s 2 and 3.

The beautiful empty building might be something a tourist would take a picture of – the magnificent windows or the hand-carved cross. The beautiful building full of people worshiping could be something pilgrims would be involved in – worshiping and believing we are “right” and people who really are “in the know” will want to join us. “Pilgrims” tend to be certain about what they believe, and certain that others who don’t believe as they do are wrong. The faithful community in the world serving, learning, growing, in conversation with our neighbors – sharing our faith, but also sharing our doubts, and listening carefully – always seeking to know God, ourselves and others better.

Rachel led us in the making of a “banner” – a simple process that tried to show how God makes connections with us. The children joined with members of the congregation to create this simple example of “Transfiguration” – a symbol of what it means to move from “Spiritual Tourist” to “Spiritual Pilgrim” to “Spiritual Seeker” – as Rabbi Hirschfield defines the terms.

Here is a link to and some info about Rabbi Hirschfield’s 2009 book: You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right. It is an excellent and timely read. We highly recommend it.

A new book is coming out soon – The New Parish – by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen. The link is to a video about the book – one that is relevant to the transformation we believe is being worked within us and through us at First UMC Burlington.

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.

  • Mark, if you see The New Parish as a description of what’s happening at First UMC, you best believe I am IN.