St. Mary’s was excited to offer a special weekend with Author Amy Julia Becker. Amy Julia Becker is a writer, teacher, and speaker who invites us to “participate in the larger healing work of love in this world.” During her time at St. Mary’s, she focused on the themes in her book, White Picket Fences: Turning toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege. There were a number of opportunities throughout the weekend of February 21 – 23 to listen, learn, and engage with Amy Julia including:
Friday, February 21: Meet & Greet and Book Signing with Amy Julia. Listen to her 20 minute keynote from this evening below:
Sunday, February 23: Adult Forum with Amy Julia Becker titled, “How to receive the Love of God.” Listen to it below:
I have to be honest. Shame, guilt, and perhaps a little defensiveness, were my knee-jerk reactions when I first started reading Amy Julia Becker’s book White Picket Fences. It’s not the first time that my southern country club, private school educated self has felt this way and I’m sure that it won’t be the last. Yes, like most of us I venture to say, I have lived in a bubble. I don’t think I even fully realized that until I was in my mid-twenties just out of school and starting my career in the “real world.” As I continued to read the book, I began to understand Amy Julia’s intent was not to shame us, but to encourage us to acknowledge our blessings and then put all of that privilege aside.
Compassion is not an emotion held only by those who have experienced hardship. We shouldn’t feel apologetic for our upbringing or the upbringing we have provided for our children, and we should acknowledge that we are all a product of our environment. When we emerge from our protective but restrictive white picket fences and come out of the confines of our bubbles, we can imagine living life in someone else’s shoes. Looking at another person’s experiences through a different lens, their lens, we gain a new perspective. Whether it’s the elderly woman who’s struggling with loneliness, the homeless man on the corner you pass every day, or the little girl with Down Syndrome, Amy Julia asks us to see the similarities, not the differences. She says “…understanding the value of every human being, independent of work or achievement, is a truth we all need to hear.” Finding love and serving wholeheartedly is not easy; she acknowledges that. This is where God comes in. “It is an act of faith that God is love, that I am needy, and that by turning toward love, I will someday, somehow be given a way to participate in the restoration of the good world God made.” Amy Julia warns that it will take thousands of us who are willing to do God’s work.
I hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity presented to our congregation this weekend. Amy Julia Becker will share with us and inspire us. She knows that together we can make a huge impact in our world. I know that I want to be one of those thousands. How about you?
Last Sunday was Youth Sunday, so one of the young people of our congregation, Jack Ireland, was our preacher at both services. I’ve thought about what Jack had to say last Sunday. A lot. If you weren’t able to be here, Jack began his sermon by wondering aloud, ‘what is my purpose?’ Someone that age is looking and looking hard at the question of ‘what will I do with my life?’ That is part of what I admire so much about people that age. They are wondering, ‘what is worth giving my life to?’ I think that’s what Jack’s question, ‘what is my purpose?’ was all about.
The word purpose has its roots in the Greek word telos which does mean purpose, but purpose in a special sense. For example, the telos, the purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. Its purpose is built right into it, into its very being. Unless something intervenes – like a squirrel or bad growing conditions – it will become an oak tree. It can’t help it.
But when it comes to people, it’s not so clear cut. What is the purpose of a person? The sciences might tell us that our purpose is to survive, physically, and to procreate to ensure the survival of our species and leave it at that. And as far as it goes, I guess, that’s not wrong. But that’s not what Jack was talking about.
To go a step further, we sometimes find a sense of purpose in what we decide to do with our lives as our work. We decide to be a teacher, or an artist, or an IT cyber security threat specialist. Certainly, the work we do can be an important part of the answer to the question of what is our purpose. But what of the vast majority of folks for whom a job is just a job, little more than a paycheck?
So, the work we do probably can’t fully answer Jack’s question. I think his question is one that all of us – whether we’re just surviving or just making a paycheck or even when our work is deeply fulfilling – come back to again and again: what is worth giving my life to?