What Brings Fulfillment?

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in Faith Words |

 Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
October 27, 2013
What Brings Fulfillment?
              4th in the series “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?”

Scripture     John 13:1-5, 13-17

I love to laugh. That’s probably no surprise to most of you. It explains why some of my favorite TV shows are comedies.  “Everybody Loves Raymond” is on my short list.  Some of you may remember the show. The writers were able to make real life experiences funny.  Do you remember the episode that centered on a suitcase?    Ray came home from a work trip and he set his suitcase down in the stairwell and he thought his wife was going to bring it upstairs and she thought he was going to bring it up and so the suitcase sat there right in the stairwell.  A day, a week, two weeks went by and nobody would touch it. 

I think I remember that episode because long after I quit laughing it still spoke to me. There have been times in my life when I “walked around the suitcase.”  But Jesus never did.   Jesus got up from the table and tied a linen cloth around his waist with which to dry his disciples’ feet – obviously not what one would expect a master to do. A Jewish text says this is something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but not a Jewish slave.

 On the other hand, foot-washing was something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. A level of intimacy was involved in these cases, unlike when Gentile slaves would do the washing. 

In Jesus’ case, there is an obvious reversal of roles. The Master becomes the servant. The teacher stoops down- with love in his eyes- and washes the feet of his disciples.

In this passage and throughout the entire New Testament, Jesus teaches us that true fulfillment comes when we really care for others. Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher acting in this manner. It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.  Peter didn’t understand what brings fulfillment.

A near marital collapse taught Millard Fuller this important lesson. You may recognize Fuller as the founder of Habitat for Humanity, but let me tell you the rest of the story.  Fuller was born in Lanett, Alabama, on January 3, 1935. Fuller majored in economics at Auburn University (’57) and received a law degree from the University of Alabama (’60). He married Linda Caldwell in 1959. A successful businessman and lawyer, Fuller became a self-made millionaire by age 29.

But as the business prospered, his health, integrity and marriage suffered.  And  in 1967  Linda said she wanted a divorce. She wasn’t happy. Milliard convinced her to pray about it. Then he said, “I think God is calling us to give up everything and become poor.”

 In 1968, Fuller and his wife, Linda, moved with their children to an interracial farming community in southwest Georgia. Koinonia Farm, founded by Clarence Jordan in 1942, became home to the Fuller family for five years until they moved to Zaire as missionaries in 1973. Upon returning to the United States, the Fullers began a Christian ministry at Koinonia Farm, building simple, decent houses for low-income families in their community, using volunteer labor and donations and requiring repayment only of the cost of the materials used. No interest was charged, as it is with traditional mortgages, and no profit was made. These same principles guided the Fullers in expanding this ministry, called Partnership Housing, into a larger scale ministry known as Habitat for Humanity International. That vision was expanded in 2005 in the founding of The Fuller Center for Housing.

In an interview Linda talked about their relationship…”I am so proud of the work Millard is doing. Milliard adores me and I love him.”  (1)

What brought about the change in their relationship?   Millard Fuller and his wife found fulfillment.  You don’t have to wait until your life hits a crisis point. We all aren’t called to give everything we have away and become poor.  We are called to serve each other in humility, just like Jesus did, no matter where we are, whether it is in our homes, at work, or in the church. 

That kind of service requires us to change our focus.  Serving requires thinking of the other person first.  Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.  Philippians 2:4: not looking to your own interestsbut each of you to the interests of the others.

Today we come to the end of our series based on the book What’s the Least I Can Believe and still be a Christian.  The book was written by a United Methodist pastor. It’s based on a man he met named Danny.  Here’s how the author introduces us to Danny:

            When I first met Danny, he said, “Preacher, you need to know that I am an atheist. I         don’t believe the Bible. I don’t like organized religion. And I can’t stand self-righteous,            judgmental Christians.”

            In spite of Danny’s avowed atheism and my devout Christian beliefs, we became close    friends. Over the next year Danny and I engaged in numerous conversations about God,     religion and faith. During that time Danny softened his stance on atheism. One day,    after a long conversation, he announced with a laugh, “I’ve decided to upgrade from an atheist to an agnostic.” Several months later Danny said, “I’ve had an epiphany. I         realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians             package Christianity.” A few weeks after that conversation, Danny said, “Martin, you’ve just about convinced me on this religious stuff. So I want to know- what’s the least I can            believe and still be a Christian?” (2)

The world is full of individuals like Danny.

The number of Americans who identify with no religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).  (3)

 Individuals who are turned off by organized religion say it is because it is too concerned with power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics. 

But these same individuals are concerned about the environment, say they are spiritual but not religious and many of them say they pray.  They’re just turned off by religion – at least the religion they see. 

But we can show them what we really believe if we live by these 4 basic principles:

* Relationships-with God and others matter most.

* Even with our flaws, Jesus loves and accepts us as beloved children of God.

* God primarily works through people.

* True fulfillment comes from serving others

Over time the Danny’s of this world might become open if we show them that what really matters to a Christian is not judging…building up walls…talking about who is right and who is wrong. What really matters is how we love. We learn how to love by following the example of Christ.  And isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? 

 

(1.) Taken from Habitat for Humanity website

(2.) From the Preface of  What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?  By Martin Thielen 

(3.) Statistics from “Nones on the Rise;” Oct. 9, 2012 Pew Research  Center Religion and Public Life  website