(Guest Post from Juliette Fowler) Juliette Fowler Communities is thrilled to announce that the congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been selected to receive the 2017 Erika McKenzie Volunteer Award at the 5th Annual Visionary Women Luncheon on Friday, May 12, 2017 at the Omni Dallas Hotel. The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the United States and Canada will receive the award on behalf of the churches.
For 125 years, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has embraced Juliette Fowler Communities providing care, support and love for children and aged adults. Fowler’s care ministries help children and older adults realize the maximum of their potential as human beings created in the image of God. The support of Disciples throughout the Southwest and Great River Regions has ensured that those we serve experience a fullness of life as God intends.
Thank you for sharing the deeply sympathetic nature of Juliette Fowler and for being as she was - a sharer of the joys and griefs of others.
For tickets to the Visionary Women Luncheon, please contact Coleman Rabourn at 214/515-1342 or visit www.fowlercommunities.org.
Where are you challenged and encouraged
to become the best version of yourself?
If you’re like me, you sometimes imagine yourself living into a different version of you. In that alternate reality, your “more” – more loving, more effective in your work, more talented, more faithful in your relationships, more compassionate to the suffering of others, more impactful in helping create a better world. Maybe I’m unusual in these daydreams, but I doubt it. I know I’m not alone, because I’ve had this conversation with enough folks to know that people are longing to become a bigger, better, healthier version of themselves. And not according to someone else’s criteria, but based upon some deep internal measures, some deep knowing.
Where do you experience acceptance for who and what you are, warts and all? Is it in your family of origin? Your family of choice? Among your friends?
Where do you get the image of your best self? Who tells you what you could be or become? Who then encourages you on the journey toward fulfillment of yourself.
What about your faith community? Do the place where and the people among whom you gather offer a space of healing and hope and unconditional love? Do they challenge you to be and become the best version of yourself?
This “better world” is often described by Jesus through parables and named “the kingdom of God/heaven”. Jesus even taught his followers to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-11 & Luke 11:1-4) Jesus called his followers to focus their lives upon the Great Commandments – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40; Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18) We also often join to this the call heard from the prophet Micah “What does God require of you? Simply this: Do justice (with God), pursue mercy (with God), and walk humbly (with God).” (Micah 6:8)
The question I keep asking is where do we learn to live this way, and where are we supported as we struggle to be transformed into these kind of people? If it can’t happen within the church, where can it happen? And yet how often has the church been a place and source of painful relationships and experiences?
This also isn’t something that we accomplish through force of will and personality. There are things about you that you can’t fix, no matter how hard you try. The world’s spiritual wisdom traditions all seem to agree on this point, though they articulate it in different ways. Ultimately our healing, our restoration, our salvation, our rebirth, are things that we allow to come, rather than things we work to achieve. In the same way you didn’t accomplish your first birth, neither do you accomplish rebirth. You are certainly a participant, and your posture can make the process more or less difficult, but ultimately it is a passage through which you travel with the help of others.
Participating in the life of the kingdom is like walking in a waking dream. Things are slightly surreal. You are present, but don't quite fit in with what's going on around you. The world doesn't quite make sense. And strange things keep happening. Walls and barriers fall away. Chasms and gulfs that once separated are bridged. Failures are transformed so that they might birth blessings. The limitations of the natural world don't have quite the power over us that they used to. Even in the midst of difficulty there is deep hope and peace and joy.
Jesus came so that you might have this full life, this truest life. It’s not for your own enjoyment alone. Rather, as you make progress in this path, you are more able (and therefore responsible) to help others along their path. Spiritual maturity means you do have more at your disposal – more grace, more mercy, more forgiveness, more freedom, more power for transformation of your life, your community, the world. Jesus came both to proclaim and to accomplish the kingdom of God here among us, and has commissioned his followers to continue that work. How do you think you’re doing?
Jesus came in response to the Messianic expectations of his people. Among the Maccabees and others there had been previous claimants to the title. They’d amassed followers and led movements, only to be killed and their followers dispersed. So by the time Jesus comes on the scene there was likely a mixture of Messiah fatigue and fierce hope that, “finally, at last, the true Messiah has come.” Cousin John’s ministry of prophetic preaching and baptism preparations only served to stoke the flames of anticipation.
The people were ready for a leader, yet from the very beginning Jesus was an unlikely candidate. He didn’t come from a leading family or a ruling district. He wasn’t formally trained. And he spent his public time preaching, teaching, healing and exorcising, not organizing a political or military campaign. Yet when Palm Sunday came he wanted to be sure there was no misunderstanding.
Entering Jerusalem as he did, riding on a donkey, was Jesus’ way of throwing down the gauntlet, going all in at the table, playing the Messiah script perfectly, just as everyone imagined. This is why the leaders were so incensed, “Tell your followers to be quiet.” If there were to be a Messiah, surely the religious and political elites among the Jews would be the first to know. And for them, Jesus couldn’t possibly be the one.
All eyes were fixed on him during this week. Not simply because God’s script required crucifixion and so Jesus’ part was to instigate that. This was the result, not the cause.
Jesus’ intent, I believe, was to make clear that God’s way is not the way of political power, wealth, or military might. Jesus was saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah. Now let me show you what that means, what God is saying and doing among you.” Fully consistent with his preceding messages and with the prophetic texts of the suffering servant and God’s preferential option for the poor, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the Messiah who was both Lord of all and Servant of all.
Power, wealth and political influence are not in themselves bad (though they have an overwhelmingly corrupting influence on the human spirit). It is simply that they are not Jesus’ way. He used them, and welcomed people of that class to follow, support and work alongside him. But they were to follow his way, rather than the other way around.
Palm Sunday was Jesus’ way of saying, “Here I am, just as you requested. But be careful what you wish for.” When Jesus shows up in your life, will you follow him, or try to get him to conform to your preconceived expectations and norms? Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Will your answer fit with what he came to do?