From a recent post in the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought – “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” (Gilbert Chesterton)
As I thought about Chesterton’s quote, going to church on Sundays came to mind and the saying morphed into – “The self-righteous sees the church service. The faithful sees the face of Jesus.”
It is all too easy to become wrapped up in the beauty of the church building or the carefully choreographed rituals of the church service and be like the traveler in Chesterton’s quote. For many years the Catholic Church resisted the movement away from using Latin in the Mass because the inability of the laity to understand what was going on was a big part of the mystery and drama that the clergy wanted to maintain. It was considered to be part of the show that the congregation has come to see. What do you see?
But, the faithful, like the tourists in Chesterton’s quote, have come to see something in particular – they have come to be with Jesus. In Matthew 18:20 we are told that Jesus said – “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” The faithful came not to be entertained, but to see Jesus. What do you see?
Look around the next time that you are in church. Which one of the others who are there with you is Jesus in your midst? Is He the well-known congregant who is always faithfully at church or that stranger that you’ve never seen there before? Is He the infant noisily crying in the back of the church or the hunched over elderly man in the pew next to you? Could He be delivering the sermon or just listening to it like you are? What do you see?
The difference between the traveler and the tourist that Chesterton was pointing out is one of intentional focus. For the traveler, the scenery unfold around them as they proceed, but it may be barely noticed – it is simplify background noise in their lives. For the tourist, the scenery that is unfolding around them as they go IS what they came to see. They not only notice, but also take it in and savor it. It is often much the same with church. One can just get through the service, mindlessly mouthing the words of the songs and blankly staring ahead during the sermon; or one can be in the moment, savoring the time that they have to be with Jesus in worship. For those who open their hearts to God, church is a time to see what you came to see – the face of Jesus in your midst. What do you see?
So, next Sunday; be the tourist and savor the moments that you will have with Jesus in your midst. Focus upon what you came to see and find God in the crowd, in the service and in the building. Ask yourself – What do you see? Do you see what you came to see?