Go Higher

I’ve said before, I think hawks are my spirit animal. I’ve had several semi-mystical encounter with them here town. On two of my birthdays (i.e., literally on the day…) I’ve had an upclose encounter with two separate hawks, in ways that felt like a message to me.

The message was something like…take courage…have strength…fear not….

Also some years back, sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for the door to open and biopsy results to be revealed, I gazed out the window in my anxiety and fear, to see a lone hawk perched upon the corner of an adjacent building. She was just looking off into the distance.

And again, I heard the message…take courage…have strength…fear not…

It happened again just about two weeks ago. But it was a different message this time.

I driving around town, meditating on the scripture passage for that Sunday’s sermon:

“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”

I love this Common English Bible translation. There are “patterns” to this world. The world’s patterns are repetitive, depressing, and fear-filled. The world would lock us into believing the world will never change. The world’s patterns are of random violence and distrusting hearts.

So, I was meditating about all this, as I pulled up to the church after lunch one day. And low and behold, up in the sky over the sanctuary, there was a hawk. Only this hawk was not alone. This hawk was being dive-bombed by two crows.

It was an amazing sight. Those crows were really really mad about something. It looked a lot like this picture…

hawkandcrows

Anyway, I pulled over so I could see what happened next. What happened was that the hawk started spiraling…higher and higher….on the winds. It did not seem to be straining, or flapping, at all. It did not fight back against the crows. It just stretched out those enormous wings, caught the wind, and went upward, in higher and higher circles.

Eventually, the crows could not flap enough to keep up. They both fell away, until only the hawk was left, a tiny dot way up in the baby blue sky.

“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”

That hawk understood a deep truth. It didn’t have to fight back. It didn’t have to get down on the crow’s level. All it need to be was to be a hawk. To transform the situation and not conform to the world of the crow.

It seems to me that this is what Jesus does during the Holy Week drama. On Sunday, crowds want to pull him away from his calling as Messiah, and conform him to the role of earthly king. He’s not destined to be an earthly king, but he loves that crowd anyway, even as they are mistaken about his intention and calling.

On Thursday night, one of his most trusted disciples betrays him. With a kiss. And Jesus might have been tempted to conform to earthy paranoia and fear. But he does not.

Still another follower wants to respond with the violence of a sword. And Jesus might have been tempted to conform to earthly patterns of violence and retribution. But he does not.

But Jesus is like the hawk.
He just goes higher.

By Friday, all his friends are gone, and he is alone on the cross. And yet, even in that place he avoids conforming to bitterness and spite, and is somehow able to pray: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

All throughout Holy Week, then, the world gives Jesus chance after chance to conform to the “patterns” of the world. To respond with violence, bitterness, fear, anxiety. But Jesus, in all his responses, is personally transformed and is also transforming the world. Jesus, still with his feet planted firmly on the Via Dolorosa, is the hawk soaring above it all too.

In the midst of your struggles and fears, in the midst of this particular moment in world history that seems chaotic and fear-filled, remember the calm spirit of Jesus during Holy Week. Remember that even in when we are most surrounded by earthly turmoil, God’s Spirit allows us to be transformed and to go higher.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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