11.18.2010

Reign of Christ (Proper 29), Year C

Leadership is a pretty intense calling.

At some point in our lives, we are all called to take on a mantle of responsibility not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Slow down and read that again.

We are called to take on a mantle of responsibility not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Sometimes that leadership role is pretty obvious - we are parents or we are teachers or we are managers or we are group facilitators. Other times it is more elusive - we vote, we spend money, we make consumer choices. We lead by action, by intention and by example.

This is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, traditionally a time of recognizing the Kingship or Lordship of Christ. In Christ, God chose to take on the mantle of flesh and walk amidst the creation to set an example and show the way...to lead in a new direction and do a new thing.

The prophet Jeremiah points to an image that Jesus understood deeply and used in teaching - the shepherd. The prophet is delivering God's judgment on those called on to shepherd a flock. Over the course of Israel's history, God has provided a changing model of leadership - prophets and judges and kings. David was raised up as God's anointed and promised a secure family line of kings for the future. Here we have the voice of Jeremiah naming and shaming bad leadership while pointing to a day when God will again do a new thing, raise up a new shepherd. Jeremiah wrote from a time when the Kingdom was divided - when Jerusalem and Judah were grappling with neighboring powers for status and influence. God's chosen people didn't seem very attuned to God's leadership through the anointed lines.

Instead of a Psalm, we have a passage from Luke - It is Zechariah's prophecy, spoken as soon as his tongue is freed from the curse he encountered at doubting God, about what is about to unfold in the birth of John the Baptist and the revealed pregnancy of Mary. The story is pointing us toward a new idea of leadership, a new fulfillment of the covenant promises God made to Israel thousands of years earlier.

In Paul's letter to the Colossian church, he frames Christ as the "head" of a body. Now there is a leadership model that we can probably fully understand. But if we know the other ways the "body of Christ" is described in history, we also know that the body is less effective without hands, fingers, elbows, knees, feet and toes. While this passage doesn't quite go this far, it's not really a stretch to say that the head can't lead without the rest of the body.

Finally, there is sort of a chronologically offbeat selection from the Gospel of Luke. In the moments before Advent, we are called into the Easter story. Jesus is on the cross accompanied by other criminals. The crowd and one of the criminals is mocking Jesus, who's cross is labeled "King of the Jews." In some ways, this is a crowd that had hope for the new king they had long been promised. This is not the turn they expected and they are sorely disappointed. This king (Leader) has not achieved success by their understanding. (It's hard to accept that we might not really know how to measure "good" leadership, isn't it?) But Jesus seems to understand this state of confusion..."They do not know what they are doing." Indeed. How often that is the case as our expectation of leadership and the reality of leadership clash.

Leadership is an intense calling. It is not always an easy task. It is not always a rewarded task. It carries with it a weight that is not present for those who are led.

And even though these difficulties are true, sometimes we are called to take on the mantle of responsibility not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

God, I often am not sure I want to follow my own advice
much less to have others looking to me for direction.
I want to be a good leader for others
And I want to follow you
And sometimes those two don't match up.
Guide me as I try to understand how to
follow
and
lead
at
the
same
time.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.

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