Do You Want to be Transformed?

Don’t answer too quickly. Think about it. It’s a big question.

Most Christians traditions value transformation, though different churches use different words. Born-again. Repentance. Metanoya. In this Advent season, rebirth is a big one. Most label transformation a goal, if not a promise. Transformed, you won’t see the world the same way you did before the experience. Instead, you will see and be in a way more aligned with who God wants you to be.

Many traditions offer one big emotional pop of transformation—baptism, altar calls, joining the church—then expect you to coast on that for a while. What other ways can a church offer transformation?

They can host Anti-Racism and Racial Reconciliation training.

Oh, but you say, I don’t want to be transformed THAT way.

If you’re like me, you need to pay attention to that pushback. For a while, I labeled myself spiritually dyslexic. If I had a negative reaction to a spiritual nudge, that meant I definitely needed to flow in that direction. Doing so led me into some of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

Today, we finished our Anti-Racism training for Advent (good thing, since Advent is over in three days.) You can read my thoughts about week 1, week 2, and week 3 here. This week, we spent time examining the continuum of racism/anti-racism in institutions…and applied it to our own Mississippi Episcopal diocese. Surely it’s only transformative if your inquiring mind turns inward.

Which may be one reason we shy away from it. Self-assessment is HARD. It’s easier to blinker ourselves and avoid it.

If that is your feeling, answer the question truthfully: no, I don’t want the movement of the Spirit to transform me. I want to feel an emotional high every so often and call it a day. I don’t want a fundamental shift that gives me new eyes. A new heart. New hands. And great joy.

You’ll note I didn’t ask if you NEED the Spirit to transform you. We all need that movement of the living Spirit inside us, or we get stuck, stale, and predictable. It’s much more a question of do we want it. Or how badly we want it. Enough to make room for it in our already-overwhelming lives? Enough to seek it out? In fact, didn’t Jesus ask this question over and over again to those who came to him for help: what do you want?

Again, answer carefully. Because one thing about transformation: we don’t control it. We can’t direct it, plot it out, define it, make it go the way we want it to go. We can’t say, okay—that’s enough, now.

Oh, we can. But we then will live for the rest of our lives with the sorrow that comes from knowingly turning away from something that has taken our heart.

Mother Mary, transformed in glory

anti-racism training, Mississippi Episcopal Diocese, racial reconciliation training, transformation

Comments (6)

  • You may have missed your calling. This is a wonderful Advent sermon, evidence of the way your writing has matured. But be wary about taking holy orders as that would surely limit your writing time. I know that Episcopal services tend to be formal and that enthusiasm is not encouraged. In my church this would have brought a standing ovation.
    Happy Christmas & keep bringing it

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thank you, Joe. You are too kind, but your enthusiasm is much appreciated. One never knows how one’s words will be accepted. I do hope that you and yours have a wonderful Merry Christmas.

  • I’m grateful you got to the institutional aspect, finally. Religious institutions, like all institutions, tend to be even slower than individuals in dealing with bit issues like racism. It’s so much easier to blame a person for a “sin” than to look at the structures around the person that led to that behavior.

    Throughout the gospel, people who were oppressed responded to Jesus’s teaching and accepted healing. There are no gospel stories of women rejecting Jesus, for example. However, people who were rich and/or heavily invested in the religious or political institutions of the time often were called out by Jesus or “went away sad.”

    We do all need the Spirit moving to move society in a more peaceful and just direction.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      “It’s so much easier to blame a person for a “sin” than to look at the structures around the person that led to that behavior.” I love that! And I’m taken with the fact that no gospel stories show women rejecting Jesus. Thank you for all of this! e

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