A few months ago, I had to get myself a car because my car broke down on Route 29. After getting my car, I realized that there is both a GPS and a compass. You may not always need the GPS, but you will always need the compass. We have come a long way from the early days of the compass. One important feature about the compass is that it really does not take you home, it helps us to know whether we are heading north, south, east, or west.
A few meters away from the fortified walls of a Slave Castle in my native Ghana is a very large compass that's sculpted into the ground. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus visited that castle, saw the compass, and pointed West, and that was how he got to the Americas. It was not the case that Columbus knew where he was going; he simply sailed westwards because he followed the compass.
In last Sunday’s gospel reading, this is how Mark described the crowd Jesus met at the shore: “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” A sheep without a shepherd is no different from knowing where you are but do not know where you are going or what may be next. A compass points you towards a direction, towards a path on which you may find fulfillment and solace that you may desperately need.
A few questions have been raging in my mind the past couple of days... “Who are you?” “What are you here for?” “Who has called you?” More importantly, which compass guides you or points you in the direction you want to walk? The psalmist prays this faithful prayer in Psalm 86: Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
"Talk to me about the compass which points me to you," says the psalmist.
Remember, in the gospel story, Jesus did not only see a dispirited crowd and showed compassion on them, but he also taught them. The teaching part or indeed the formation part of our Christian pilgrimage is one of the important tools that make our transformation possible. That is to say that availing ourselves to learn about the compass that leads us to God, is one of the most important ways of renewal and transformation. And to be honest with you, that is the only way we can know who we are, who it is that continuously calls us and desires for us to use Him as our compass.
Who is it that does not need a compass? A few days ago, I was called to the hospital to baptize a twenty-three-week-old baby who had been delivered prematurely and was near death two days after she was born. Unfortunately, the baby died about three minutes before I arrived. The mother was holding the baby, and the father sat by the mother while they cried. I could not help but cry. This child could have been anything in the world, but here we have a mother and father mourning a life that was not. What words of comfort would be enough for this couple? In their grief, they will need a compass.
We have all been witnesses to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our common lives. We have been exposed to our own vulnerabilities and to a reality check that seeks to remind us of life’s fragility. We can carry with ourselves this deep fear. In our anxiety, we will need a compass.
Many are the homes that are experiencing hardships of different kinds: kids are struggling with school, and there is never enough to satisfy each child. For some, there is little to no home life. Marriages are crumbling under the weight of mistrust and mischief; single parents are struggling to provide necessities for their families. There is this feeling of the home losing its luster. In our desire for a renewed sense of family, society, and home, we will need a compass.
Our friends at Lake Elkhorn Middle School would be blessed by the contribution you made in support of our School Supply Drive. At the very least, we know that those who need supplies for the next school year will receive them because of your kind generosity. The interesting bit is that our work does not end with the provision of supplies; we also must pray for them. They too need a compass.
One of the organizations that have started in-person meetings at our campus is Alcoholic Anonymous. It is particularly strange that they end their meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, even though a good number of them may not be practicing Christians. A couple of Saturdays ago, I heard the echo of the prayer whiles I worked in the office. They, and many others who fight daily to overcome their addiction, also need a compass.
The list is long, but I am sure you get the picture. We all - especially you and me - need a compass. We need the compass that reminds us to be thankful for everything, whether good or bad. We need that sense of direction that only the compass can offer us.
If the legend about Columbus is true, then perhaps we also need to stand on the compass of God’s word and point to the west, east, north, or south with confidence, knowing that we can never go away from the presence of God. Even if we go to the very depths of the sea, we will find Him there.
The story of the compass is not necessarily about being lost; it is about knowing whose you are, who called you, who you are, where you are, which direction you need to go, and how you will get to that font where the waters of comfort never runs out.
I wish you a safe journey.