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2149 N. Green Bay Road
Racine, WI 53405

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The Story of Sacred Journeys

A story must be told in such a way that it constitutes help in itself. My grandfather was lame. Once they asked him to tell a story about his teacher. And he related how his teacher used to hop and dance while he prayed. My grandfather rose as he spoke, and he was so swept away by his story that he began to hop and dance to show how the master had done. From that hour, he was cured of his lameness. That’s how to tell a story. ~ Martin Buber

All good stories, if you think about it for a moment, are stories of transformation. Characters face challenges, emotional struggles, difficult situations, and by the time you get to the end of the story, their struggles have changed them for the better. They have learned and grown in wisdom, and we’re cheering for them because we’re so happy that they’ve come to their senses, or found a sense of peace, or dealt with the personal baggage they were carrying.

However, in my opinion, the best stories also inspire the teller/listener/reader to change and transform their own lives, just like Marin Buber’s grandfather was transformed and healed by telling a story about his teacher. The best stories motivate us to be a better people and live better lives. They connect us to our authentic selves, open us to the world of the sacred, and gift us with understanding.

The story of Sacred Journeys is a story of transformation for many of us.Ten years ago I used the exodus story of Moses and the burning bush at Sacred Journey’s first worship service. It seemed appropriate at the time. It’s a story of a people caught in an oppressive system who were unable to even imagine a new life for themselves until Moses, Aaron and God came on the scene. The exodus was a story of transformation – from slavery to liberation, from living in someone else’s land and abiding by their rules, to having a homeland of one’s own and the freedom to live and worship freely.

Today the scripture we heard is an excerpt from a song that was sung by Moses and the Israelites after they had crossed through the Red Sea on dry land and the waters closed back over the Egyptians who were chasing them.

You led your redeemed people
with your unfailing love.
With your strength you guided them
to your holy pasture.
You brought them and planted them
upon your own mountain... Exodus 15: 13, 17 

Sacred Journeys was born from a confluence of issues, but overall there was the same desire to be released from a rigid religious and theological box and to have the ability to create a new home – a place to seek Truth, seek God, ask questions and to heal.

There was no way to know – 10 years ago – if this new community would survive. But our goal wasn’t survival; it was to remain true to the Spirit who was leading us with unfailing love and strength.

We forged a mission statement that has been in the bulletin every Sunday for ten years:

Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community is an inclusive, progressive Christian community that exists to honor and encourage each person’s spiritual journey with God.  Together we will work toward wholeness through worship, learning, social justice and mission.

I still believe it is as relevant and valid today as it was then. We may not be perfect, but we’ve done the best we could to uphold this mission and the greater vision of hospitality, out of the box thinking, asking questions, holding faith in an unconditionally loving Divinity, and communicating honestly even when things were difficult.

In the course of ten years in the wilderness we’ve:

  • Held over 500 worship services
  • Donated over $104,000 to 96 non-profit organizations
  • Sent volunteers on three mission trips (2 to Pine Ridge and 1 to ASP)
  • Donated an additional $7,000 to Pine Ridge and ASP (in the years we didn’t go on a mission trip)
  • Had countless collections of books, school supplies, socks, food, toys, and more
  • Participated in hands-on outreach: painting, gardening, serving food, picking up trash, sorting food, painting bowls, playing Bingo at St. Monica’s, making blankets and glad rags, decorating for the Equality Prom and more
  • Advocated for social justice through our presence at the Racing PRIDE Rally and Juneteenth Day Celebration
  • Enjoyed concerts, talent auctions and picnics
  • Offered classes, retreats, field trips, social justice speakers and movies
  • Taught two youth Quest classes and one adult Quest class
  • Welcomed babies, celebrated weddings,  and said good-bye to friends and loved ones

In this wilderness, as Joyce Rupp says, we have been “nourished, forgiven, challenged, taught, guided, and transformed” by the faithful Presence of God.

Perhaps the next question is: where do we go from here? We began our journey seeking the Promised Land. Joyce Rupp defines it as a land of “personal authenticity and a vibrant life with God.” We still seek this.

Mark Nepo tells a story about a Hindu sage who is offering teachings in a huge fielt to the many who have gathered. He tells a parable about two monks who have studied many years, preparing themselves to climb a mountain so they can meet with Buddha on the summit. They begin the arduous climb, and halfway up the mountain, one of the monks breaks his leg. They both stop to rest and the other monk makes the injured one comfortable. They stay overnight and in the morning it’s clear that the monk who broke his leg isn't doing well. He’s developed a fever and shouldn’t be left alone.

The teacher stops the story and asks the crowd, “What would you do? Would you leave and keep your appointment with Buddha or take your fellow monk back down the mountain to be cared for?” One earnest student replies, “I’d make him as comfortable as I could . Then I’d leave to keep my appointment with Buddha.” The teacher looks at him and says, “Well, I’m glad I wouldn’t be traveling with you.” The earnest monk is embarrassed.

The teacher then explains that, in every era and every generation, when we have more who would leave that monk to keep their appointment – no matter how sacred – we have an age of cruelty. When there are more who would take the injured monk back down the mountain, we have an age of compassion.

You see, making it to the top of the mountain, or to the Promised Land isn’t necessarily the summit of our journey. Sometimes putting down what we’re after in order to care for another is the heart’s destiny. Sometimes our grand dreams set us on the road, until love awakens us and we realize that we don’t need to be anywhere but right where we are to be whole, enlightened, and at peace.

Truly, I think this has been our sacred journey all along… it hasn’t been the words I’ve spoken on Sunday morning, or the songs we’ve sung, or the supposed answers to our theological and spiritual questions. The sacred journey is the care and compassion we show on the road of life. It’s knowing that the unfailing love and strength of God is with us. And, it’s the ability to look at one another and say, “I’m glad I’m traveling with you.”

Love & Light!

Kaye