From Trust to Journey
“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” In case you missed it, those were the Opportunity rover’s last words to NASA. NASA officially declared Opportunity’s mission completed on Wednesday, ending a 15-year mission that lasted far beyond the 90 days that Opportunity was designed for. In a way, Opportunity was declared “dead.” I teared up reading the story about Opportunity’s end. I couldn’t help but imagine the hundreds, if not thousands of people who worked on the project, a project that for some unexpectedly became the work of a lifetime. What was it like for them that this journey had come to an end?
I also couldn’t help but think about what a great story it is for us to reflect on as we move out of our theme of Trust and into our theme of Journey. “Trust” and “Journey” seem so deeply intertwined in Opportunity’s story. Trust that the rover’s systems would work as planned after the long journey to Mars. The journey itself across the vast expanse of physical space to a planet that’s such of part of our collective imagination that to some may not seem like it’s that far away at all. So much trust on the part of the many people who dedicated their lives to Opportunity’s journey in the belief that what we might learn was a worthwhile endeavor.
And I couldn’t help but think about Opportunity itself, and “Opportunity’s journey,” I mean really, that’s a sermon title right there! About the size of two minivans, Opportunity was so small, yet traveled such a great distance, and then outlasted it’s design specifications, performing science and exploring a planet that is not just an object of our imagination, but for some, our hope for possible life on other planets. At a time when so much of our technology seems to skew toward the destructive, the isolating, and the consumerist, Opportunity felt like an embodiment of some of our highest aspirations and hopes as a species.
Journey is of course not just physical. As UU theologian James Luther Adams remarked, “ours is a pilgrim church on a journey of the spirit.” Before we can undertake a journey, we first have to imagine it, and it is only then, after fixing in our imagination some goal, some path to follow (even if it is “only” the path of our whimsy), only then do we move forth in the trust and faith that there is somewhere to journey to – that the object of our imagination just might become the subject of our spirit’s growth.
Journey is then also an act of listening. Listening with the “ears of the heart” for the longing in our souls that propels us out the metaphorical door – which may well lead us no further than the meditation cushion across the room – to listen more deeply to what our hearts yearn for. Who is it that we long to be? In this life of change and evolution, how do we want to journey together? What threads of our individual journeys call to be woven together into the tapestry of faith we’re making? Ultimately, “journey” reminds us that it is not where we start or where we end, but how we are in the middle that makes all the difference. We look forward to seeing you in church these next weeks as we journey with journey.