Changing Course (9/8/2019)

Changing Course

“But can I not remain the same stream that I am today?”

I can relate. When faced with a bend in the path of my life, or a challenge that requires new skills or a new way of thinking, or a time that calls me to let go of who I thought I was, I wonder: Why can I not remain the same? Why do I need to practice things I’m not good at? Why do I have to go through another growth experience? And yet, one does. 

Whether adapting to change or resisting it, one cannot remain as one was. A person can get stuck in their own quagmire. So can a family. So can a community. Transformation is our destiny. 

Water is often a symbol of transformation. It was so for the Israelites finding liberation by way of the Sea of Reeds. It was so for freedom seekers escaping American slavery, crossing through water to avoid tracking dogs or crossing into Canada at Niagra Falls. It was so in the story from the Book of John, where the angel troubled the water for the benefit of those seeking healing. It has been so for centuries of Christians who seek a new life in baptism. Is was so in stories of Bridget of Kildare, whose well brought art, healing, and learning to life. It is so for myths that imagine the next life as being on the farthest shore, not quite visible from the edge of our own experience. Water is often a symbol of transformation. 

And we are full of transformation! Human bodies are, in general, made up of more than half water. Babies are the most watery, and the most subject to change. Young children usually have more water in their bodies than adults. But we all have some water in us, some potential for change. 

Sometimes we may appear to hold stillness, a surface of calm over depth and complexity of life. Yet eventually we flow onward, or crystallize for a time, or are lifted up in strange ways, or fall softly into a circle of others who share our journey of transformation. 

“When [the stream] heard this [call to change], echoes began to arise in the thoughts of the stream. Dimly it remembered a state in which it—or some part of it?—had been held in the arms of a wind. And the stream raised its vapor into the welcoming arms of the wind …” 

Perhaps we, too, can remember when we, or some part of us, have been held by the wind, unexpectedly different and yet ourselves in a new way. Perhaps there has been a time when you learned something that turned your life around, or you started in a new school, or your family changed shape, or someone’s health got better or worse, or you discovered strength you didn’t know you had. It may not have been comfortable. It probably wasn’t comfortable. We know all too well this week that water in motion can be dangerous. Yet here we are, drops of humanity, touched by influences from all over the world, adaptable and receptive and carrying the memory of wisdom. 

Today is a good day to remember the gift of embodying water. As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to hold each other in covenant, to call forth the best from each other and our community. We are called to act with justice, equity, and compassion, in our individual lives and in our actions as a gathered community. We are called to encourage one another to spiritual growth, to appreciate one another and share our commitment to learning and practice. We are called to meet the future, and to anticipate with hospitality and gladness the arrival of people whose lives will be saved by this faith, people who will bring different perspectives and different talents, and different needs in order to feel truly welcome. To answer this calling, we cannot remain as we are. 

This is the gift of Unitarian Universalism in general, and of an Interim period in particular: Opportunities to embrace our potential for transformation, opportunities to rise to the occasions that our faith calls us toward, opportunities to let the past lift us toward the cresting wave of the future. We will try some new things. 

We are here, affected by a culture of isolation and individualism; like single drops of water, each in our own buckets. Do we want to stay in our separate buckets, or do we want to let the winds of change bring us together in mystery and wonder? Those winds will release as a river, wearing down the mountain of despair. We’re going to try some new things. 

We are here at the edge, looking across an expanse of cruelty towards black and brown people, cruelty toward immigrants, cruelty toward Transgender people, cruelty toward people with disabilities, cruelty toward people seeking reproductive care. Do we want to wait here, or do we want to cross over and let justice flow across the land? We’re going to try some new things. 

We are here at the edge, ankle-deep in a quagmire of climate crisis, knowing that the heat and the tide are rising. Do we want to keep doing what we’ve been doing, or do we want to rise up? We’re going to try some new things. 

Transformation is our destiny. Let us answer the call of who we can become as a people, as a community, as a congregation. Let us rise to the challenges with which we are presented. Let us remember our wholeness and our unity with the Source of Life. 

So be it. Blessed be. Amen.