He’s Nearer Than You Think

Prv 8:22-31 / Rom 5:1-5 / Jn 16:12-15

The greatest library in the ancient world was in Alexandria, Egypt, and in the year 391 AD it burned to the ground.  Tradition says that only one book survived.  It was a very ordinary book, dull and uninteresting, so it was sold for a few pennies to a poor man who barely knew how to read.  Now that book, dull and uninteresting as it seemed, was probably the most valuable book in the world, for inside the back cover were scrawled a few sentences that contained the Secret of the Touchstone — a tiny pebble that could turn anything it touched to pure gold.  The inscription declared that this precious pebble was lying somewhere on the shore of the Black Sea, among millions of other pebbles that were exactly like it except in one particular way: Whereas all the other pebbles were cold to the touch, this one was warm — as if it were alive.

When the poor man who bought the book read the inscription, he rejoiced at his good luck.  He sold everything he had, borrowed what he could, and set out for the Black Sea, where he pitched his tent and began his search for the Touchstone that would make him rich.  This is how he went about his quest.  He’d pick up a pebble, and feel it.  If it was cold, he wouldn’t drop it back on the beach, lest he risk picking up the same stone dozens of times again.  Instead, after he felt the stone to be cold, he’d throw it into the sea.

Hour after hour, day after day, he continued his orderly routine: Lift a pebble, feel it to be cold, throw it into the sea; then lift the next pebble, and so on… endlessly.  The days grew into months and then into a year, two years, three years.  Still he persisted.  Still no Touchstone.  Then one evening, he picked up a pebble and it was warm to the touch!  But through sheer force of habit, he raised it above his head, and threw it into the sea, where it was lost forever!

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Imagine how he must have felt when he “woke up”!  To have had the Touchstone in his hand, and then to have tossed it away without thinking!  Mindless!  Foolish!  Yes!  And maybe some of us are doing the same thing.

There is in each of us a deep and hungry longing for the One who alone can fill our inner emptiness.  Restlessly, day after day, we continue our search for that one we call God, who alone can fill us full.  Where is He to be found?  Like the Touchstone, in the ordinary places of our lives.  And how are we to recognize Him?  Like the Touchstone — He is warm to the touch, and has the power to transform whatever He touches into pure gold.

It should be easy, but because our search continues day after day, and because the One who alone can fill our hearts is disguised in the ordinary things, we often come face to face with Him and do not see Him, often touch His warmth but are not warmed by it.  Not because we don’t wish to see and be touched, but because — in our weariness and distraction — we aren’t paying attention to the ordinary things, and don’t recognize Him, and simply go wandering on down the beach.

That’s why we need to celebrate this feast of the Holy Trinity: Because there’s something important we need to remember:

• that God is a lot bigger than we usually let Him be in our imaginations,

• that He is, in fact, so big that He isn’t interested in punishing, but only in giving life,

and, best of all,

• that He is near — always near — available to the touch, hidden just under the surface of ordinary things.

So the “bottom line” on this Trinity Sunday is quite simple: Look for Him, and you’ll find Him — not out there, but inside.  Listen for Him, and you’ll hear Him speaking ever so quietly.  Open your inner gates, and you’ll be filled full by Him, and warmed by Him, and transformed by Him into purest gold.