A story is told that there were two groups of ships on maneuvers. It was a foggy night and because of the terrible weather the captain stood the bridge – he didn't want the ships of the other group colliding with his ships.Toward dawn as his ship was going along in the ocean, the captain saw lights blinking ahead. He ordered the signal master to signal by light to have the on-coming ship to change course 20 degrees. The message was relayed and sent. And back came the reply, “You change course 20 degrees.”
The captain became furious and said, “You signal that guy back, and tell him that I’m a captain and have been a captain for 25 years. Tell him I’m ordering them to change course 20 degrees.” The message was sent. The reply came back. “I’m an ensign, second class. And I suggest you change course 20 degrees, now.”
The captain became even more irate and the light was fast approaching. So the captain said, “You tell that guy that I’m the captain of a 55-ton ship, and they’d better obey my orders immediately.” The message was sent. Back came the reply, “I’m a lighthouse, and suggest you change course immediately.” And the ship changed course 20 degrees.
Change always happens at a point in time, transformation happens over time. Change is an opportunity to see life differently now than we did before. The feast of Pentecost invites us to consider listening deeper to the call to change and the summons to transformation. We are being challenged to reflect on those places and spaces in our own lives where we may need to change course – possibly just a few degrees – or even more.
The spiritual journey is always about change and transformation – in sacred language, it is often called conversion. The spiritual journey is not about an “extreme makeover” on the outside of us with tucks, lifts, peels, alterations, implants or porcelain veneers. No, this journey calls for a deliberate change of course; a no-nonsense “in and through approach.” As one author remarks, “When the outer world monopolizes attention, the inner world is neglected. This inner world is the hidden place of communion with the divine. If we do not visit it, the relationship to God withers.”
On the spiritual journey in times and places of slowing and quieting, we enter into a sacred place and time with a willingness to move ever deeper into that inner world of solitude and communion with the Holy, although there may be a slight reluctance and resistance, now and then, on our part. However, God continues to woo us deeper into this space assuring us of our safety and that God will never be invasive. We also know in our being that going within does not mean staying within. It is about discovering something that will allow a much different way of being of ourselves in the outer world. When we return to the outer world, we will bring with us a new perspective, new learning, and new wisdom. We will see and hear differently. We will be more patient with ourselves and others; we will reclaim our way of attending to our needs and the needs of others.
We will become more conscious of being better balanced in our way of living and doing ministry, while remembering to gently take care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Going within allows us to reflect on our motivations for what we do, and reclaim the sacredness of who we already are in the eyes of the Beloved. Perhaps we will feel great love in the center of ourselves, in our soul space as it opens and receives the love of God. Then this love will explode and push us into the outer world once again.
The journey into the outer world must go through the labyrinth of the inner world. However there is a paradox here. When we go without, we also stay within. In other words, we enter the fray of the world, without forgetting who we are. We remember the understandings of the soul space as we go about our work, our living, and the proclaiming of the mission of Jesus. This means that from now on, no matter what we do, no matter what we encounter, we do it with a deeper awareness of the Spirit, whose love is being poured out into our souls. “For God is able to make every grace abundant for us, so that in all things we will have all we need.”
So what is the good news for us?
We are always being invited to consider changing course on our spiritual paths. . .
For to encounter Jesus is to change, to encounter the Spirit is to be transformed.
The Spirit, who is the energy of creativity, the energy of possibility is always at work re-creating those who open their hearts to the power of God’s generous love.
So let us move forward into the future with freedom, and change course so as to release ourselves from what we have come to hold as illusions, projections, unhealthy motivations, the certain, the familiar, the comfortable and the controlled.
Let us move forward into the future with boldness of heart, and change course so as to give ourselves over to the Mystery, the Vision and the Power of the Spirit, and allow this energy of possibility and creativity to companion us into the now and not yet.
Let us move forward into the future with a holy newness, and change course so that with hearts filled with the wisdom of God’s unconditional love, we will risk being prophetic voices for the least, the last and the lost.
And let move forward with hope into the future, reverencing and welcoming the outer world, while being aware of the richness of our diverse gifts, then we will embrace the invitation to change course together, and to deepen our commitment to the transformation of our church, our world and ourselves