When we encounter the world with all its beauty and its suffering, we get to see the larger picture and realize that our views and our ways of living, that our ways of understanding things, that even our way of worship. are one among many.
June 18, 2023
“The Awakened Traveler”
The Reflection (Part 3)
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
The Reflection Revelation 21:22-26
When we travel or encounter new things, we take in so much information. It can be mind-boggling or even soul-jarring. The gift of traveling, the gift of being on a quest, the gift of engaging in anything that seeks to broaden our perspectives is that it helps us reflect on what we have just seen, on what we just experienced. It helps us reflect on what we assume is standard practice, on what we assume are rights and privileges given to all people. The gift of travel also helps us reflect on what we have taken for granted within our own lives and hopefully helps us to appreciate what we have, what we have experienced more fully.
That is why reflection is an essential part of becoming awakened travelers. When we encounter the world with all its beauty and its suffering, we get to see the larger picture. And we realize that we are not the center of everything. We also realize that our views and our ways of living, that our ways of understanding things, that even our way of worship are one among many.
As individuals and yes, even as communities, if we are prone to dualistic thinking, meaning that we believe that there are only two ways to view any situation, we will look at these new experiences, look at our new friends, even look at the new ways of being in relationship, as somebody has to be “right” and others are “wrong”. And if we view the world in such a way, when we experience something new or different, when we experience change in any way shape or form, oftentimes it feels like we can’t get our feet underneath us. It feels like chaos. And in the midst of that turmoil we feel helpless, frustrated, and weary.
Yet, if we reflect and are open to possibilities, what feels so different may not be as far from us as we first imagined. Part of becoming awakened travelers is broadening our perspectives. It is growing in our awareness of our connection to the people not only in our local communities but across the globe as well. Becoming awakened travelers means that we will take the time to reflect on our role in this world, to reflect on how our actions can and do affect those thousands of miles away, people and communities we may never meet but are still affected by the choices we make. Taking the time to reflect on what we have experienced along our journeys, whether those journeys take us to new lands or if these journeys are simply ones of faith, taking the time to reflect and to see the world for its complexity, to embrace the world as one community, one humankind, one Body of Christ if you will. We realize that we are more alike than we are different. We are more connected than we are separate. That there is this false narrative that we need walls around us, that we need to treat people as “other” to feel safe.
In reality, there are so many common themes across religions, across cultures, across countries: peaceful coexistence, food and shelter, love and compassion for those suffering and oppressed. As awakened travelers, as we reflect on our connections, on our experiences, the challenge is to ask ourselves, “How can deeper reflection about our own hesitation to connect to the wider human family free us to explore more possibilities for a better world?
Video available at https://youtu.be/xjKVcnkBgr0
With all that in mind, I invite you to hear these words, words which remind us, that no matter what comes our way, as people of faith, as awakened travels, no matter where our journeys take us, we will always have the promise of God’s love and grace.
I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.
I will be the first to admit that when I first looked at this worship series, this was the Sunday I was dreading. Not because I don’t like reflecting on things. It is simply because I was not sure how this text from Revelation connected to reflecting on what we learn along our journeys. That is until I talked with a few return travelers in my own home.
You see I had forgotten what it is like to be on a mission trip. I had forgotten what it is like to leave home, go somewhere new, to learn about a justice issue or learn the history connected to a special place and then come home. The experience changes a person. And I had completely forgotten how disorienting a mission trip experience really is for a person. This comes from not just the lack of sleep from sleeping on an air mattress for a week. This disorientation happens because routines are broken and youth, adults, everyone experiences a new learning which is different from what they knew or had been taught.
And it wasn’t until my own return travelers came home last week, needing to process their trip, needing to talk about what they had experienced, needing to reflect on what they learned that I finally understood why this text from Revelation. Now my 12 year old would never use language like that. Usually it is more of a grunt or growl. But this past week, in surprising moments, she would say, “Mom, on the trip we did this or I saw this really cool thing.”
These moments where she invited me to help her process the trip reminded me that in this disorientation, we need something to anchor ourselves to as we discern, as we discover, as we process what we learned…And that thing is always God’s love and grace. These two things give us the strength, they give us the courage to ask the questions, to not fear the realization that some of our social constructs are wrong and need to be broken down, God’s grace and God’s love hold us secure no matter what. And they help us integrate what we have learned and experienced on our trips, knowing what implications it can have for our lives.
So to honor that processing that needs to happen after we have had life changing encounters, whether those encounters happened in another country or we had an event or several events over this past year that have us feeling completely disorientated, to honor the process that needs to happen after we have had some life changing encounters which have broadened our perspective, which may have us feeling like we can’t get our feet underneath us, or simple events which have helped us grow in our awareness of ourselves and where we are on our spiritual journeys. I want to take some moments to give us time to reflect, to reflect on what we have experienced along the way, to reflect on who we have met along the way, to reflect on how we have been transformed along the way…
So I want us to spend a few minutes in reflection…thinking about these questions…
What feels important to remember beyond this worship series that can enrich the journey of your life each day?
Have you felt a shift in some attitude about the world?
Is there something that is calling you because of this journey?
I invite everyone to come back to the larger group. May this time of reflection open our hearts and eyes to the presence of God in our midst.
See also: Additional sermons are available in the Sermon Library.