Weekly Reflections

Jesus as Leader

Each week, I will be adding my minister’s Sunday reflection to this page. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The readings for this reflection come from 1 Samuel 8: 4-20 and 11: 14-15 (appoint a king for Israel) and Mark 3: 20-35 (Who gives Jesus his power?).

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer …

Today’s readings from 1 Samuel and Mark 3, in different ways, reflect on the nature of leadership and the implications of following.  We are given choices that lead us to following God or the ways of the world … and there is always a tension that is held between them that makes us aware of the consequences of our decisions.

In our Hebrew scripture story Samuel is now an old man and his sons are corrupt, much like his mentor Eli’s sons were. All these characters were chosen as judges to help lead the people … and some were good like Samuel and Eli, while others were bad. The people were once again faced with the possibility that their leaders might “do what was right in their own eyes,” rather than promoting justice and compassion.

It sure sounds like a common story for many of the leaders throughout history!!

In Samuel’s story the people knew that his sons were not a good option, so they wanted to follow the model of their neighbouring kingdoms by demanding that Samuel appoint a king to rule them instead. Samuel was uncertain about this demand and he tries to warn the people about the consequences of kingship. These consequences include the loss of young men and women to the service of the king; the confiscation of land, slaves, and livestock…a loss of freedom and rights that mirrors what the people had already experienced as slaves in Egypt.  The people persist, and God directs Samuel to listen to the people and to allow them their wish.

This story emphasizes how the people went ahead with their choice regardless of the consequences.  They chose the certainty of the king they could see rather than relying on the mysterious ways of God that they couldn’t see.  Even in the face of so many examples of failed human leadership, holding on to what was seen and somehow known seemed the more secure option for the people.  So, they chose a king.  This scenario sounds so much like our modern day elections where we so often choose the devil that we know rather than risk the unknown of the devil we don’t know … and then we suffer for our choices.

In our Gospel story we find Jesus’ leadership being questioned, but he stands firm in his knowledge and understanding of who he is. Jesus is not thrown off by the people who thought that he was out of his mind or even his own family as they came to take him home. Instead he lives out of this knowledge of himself authentically, and connects, draws others into the kingdom … or kin-dom … a place where relationships, reconciliation, and wholeness thrive.  Jesus also challenges the division caused by this aggressive dissent.  He affirms the connections of kin by choice, the choice to follow his lead on God’s way of love.

So what makes Jesus the best leader ever?

According to Christian leadership development writer, Dale Roach, Jesus had the following nine characteristics as a leader[1]:

  1. Jesus was not self-promoting. As Jesus began his ministry, he made it clear that there was a greater power at work.
  2. Jesus was obedient to the Holy Spirit…remember how at the very beginning of his ministry he was led into the wilderness to face our very human temptations head on…Jesus was tempted by the devil to abandon the hard difficult road ahead and take the shortcut to power, wealth and glory.  The only way that Jesus could continue with his ministry would be to conquer these temptations and put God first. His temptations were opportunities to “back out” from doing God’s will and do what he wanted.
  3. Jesus cast a vision, with clarity, simplicity, and directness. One of the most powerful components of Jesus’ ministry was his ability to be simple, clear and direct.  This behavior was shown in his preaching and teaching.  His ability to tell the truth through a simple parable was the foundation of all he did.
  4. Jesus was a strategic team builder.

When Jesus called the first four disciples, who were fishermen, to follow him he        said, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” When Jesus began the process of calling his disciples to follow him, he began with men who had something in common. It is important for any leader to begin with people who share common traits and values.  These four men did not have to explain themselves to one another, neither did they have to learn each other’s backgrounds.

Anytime a leader is attempting to build a team it is essential to have a core group of people who understand each other. This action enables the establishment of stability before diversity and conflict come along. Be sure of one thing conflict will evolve in any team effort. Before Jesus recruited the other eight disciples, his first action was to create a stable core.

  1. Jesus was a relationship builder. As noted above Jesus began recruiting his disciples by finding those who shared some common ground such as the calling of the tax collector.
  2. Jesus expressed control and authority as a leader when needed.
  3. Jesus engaged crisis head-on. Often a crisis will cripple many people.

However, Jesus often took a crisis head-on. There will often be times when a strong leader will have to take on what others fear.

  1. Jesus practiced daily prayer.  Here are some examples of his daily practice.

“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”

(Matthew 14:23)

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to       a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)

Not only did Jesus show us by his practices of praying that it is a good idea, the Old   Testament also indicates that prayer can empower us to be better people.

The prophet Isaiah pointed out the need for a prayer life when he wrote these words:

         “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired         and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their   strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Prayer is a powerful and helpful tool for anyone who desires to be a healthy leader.

  1. Jesus was all about empowering others. 

Jesus’ entire ministry focused on the empowerment of others.

There can be no doubt that Jesus was all about releasing the best in all of us.

God became human through Jesus to help us see what healthy leadership is meant to be.  As Christians we are called to live out our lives as followers of Jesus … as followers of the Way … the Way of God’s love. Each of us is given the choice of who and what to follow as this is God’s gift of freewill … may each of us seek choices that promote God’s vision of justice and be a part of the transformation of our world.  As Gandhi so brilliantly stated, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The world needs us to be true followers of Jesus. And the world also requires us to rise as healthy leaders whenever and wherever we are called … whether as members of a community of faith or community members … parents … grandparents or as citizens of this planet that we all call home.

May courage, compassion and connection be ours as we continue to discern God’s call to serve together in changing times.  Amen.

[1] Dale Roach, 9 Characteristics of Jesus as a Leader. http://likeateam.com/9-characteristics-of-jesus-as-a-leader/

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