Response: April 2015 Issue

Responsively Yours: Resetting Expectations

Responsively Yours: Resetting Expectations
Council member David Tandy presents Harriett Olson with a decree for United Methodist Women’s commitment to economic and racial justice.

In this Easter season, it should be easy for us to recognize that Jesus lived, died and rose again in a completely unexpected way. He didn't operate on a basis of either/or but of both and new. Fully God and fully human, preaching about "who is my family?" and "who is my neighbor?" in ways that defied cultural norms. The victory Jesus won turned out to be very different than even the disciples expected. Returning to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, being in a place where Jesus would certainly be prosecuted, went against every survival instinct the disciples had.

These expectations, norms and instincts made it almost impossible for the disciples to truly hear Jesus' teaching. A grain of wheat falling to the ground? Losing one's life to save it? Dying and rising and suffering? Those desiring to be great must be the servant of all? This didn't fit their expectation for how Jesus would come into the Kingdom.

Of course, it's not just those disciples who have strong, culturally rooted expectations. It's also today's disciples, in our units, congregations, conferences and districts it's ourselves. We have certain notions of what mission and service look like. We have history and expectations of what it means to be successful, about how the church should engage the world.

We are anxious about the future of the church as church membership declines and thus our traditional cultural impact declines. We can get caught up in working our strategies and looking for new ones, like someone who tries diet after diet looking for the key to attaining the ideal weight.

United Methodist Women can conduct a different kind of inquiry, and we can do it in a sustained way that lets us experiment, assess and amend our processes. We can talk about how to organize in new ways and build new capacity to change the world for the better. Who would be our partners? What kind of leadership development do we need? How can we let the needs of the world better shape our plans?

In this journey we must listen to God—and be open to an outcome that looks different from what we envisioned. We know from the story of the days after Easter that Jesus can enter the community even through a locked door and can make himself known even though we do not immediately recognize him, like Mary at the tomb, or the disciples on the Emmaus Road. Jesus' guidance may take many forms. The disciples remembered what Jesus said, even though they didn't understand or imagine the implications at the time.

We must also work together as each of us listens to God, testing what we see and hear of the needs of the world, learning from one another, peeling back our own expectations and confirming the call of God from the agreement of our hearts together.

This is very Wesleyan work, it is profoundly Christian work, and it is work that stands on resurrection confidence that God has new ways of breaking in to our awareness and resetting our expectations so that we can see more clearly.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 4/1/2015 11:00:00 PM

April 2015 cover of response

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