What kind of leader do I want to be?
This isn’t the question that #Reverb10 asks today. Instead, their question is more toward that point in the past year when my body and soul felt united. They’re interested in that possibility that Descartes found impossible; but this isn’t my question. Or rather, it’s not my interest. After all, this has been a year where I’ve tried to make my body connect with my soul’s deepest longing. I’ve attempted new forms of prayer and carved unprecedented time out for prayer. Advent has been good for that. Really good. In this season, I’m praying a lot more. It’s partly because of this invitation to write from #Reverb10, partly because of this online adventure and partly because I need it. It’s not that I’m above this question. It’s certainly one that I’ll ask again but it’s not the question that digs at the very depths of my soul.
Instead, I’m interested in leadership. I’m interested in what a leader looks like — particularly in this season, at this time — when Christians focus their hearts and minds on the salvation of Jesus Christ. We’re seeking the one that will come. The one that will make all things right. The one that will ease our pains and heal our wounds, but that’s not the leader that comes. That’s not the hope that arrives in this season. It’s not just a surprise. It’s a paradox. Look all you want. Look in the wilderness. Look at the guy in lush robes. Look at that prophet over there. That’s the wisdom offered today in Matthew 11:2-11. You can look in those places, but you won’t find what you’re looking for. It won’t be there. No matter how hard you look.
I tried to teach this today. In that rare opportunity when I get to be with the children of our church, I turned our attention to Isaiah 11. We only shared the first four verses before I asked the children what a leader was. I asked if this leader described in these words. Our kids are sensitive to violence. This seemed like a bad leader just because of that bit in the third verse. Fair enough. Still, there seems to be something there so we turned our attention toward the second verse. What does it look like to be a leader who is wise, knowledgeable and skillful? Certainly, this isn’t just Jesus. Kids don’t even assume that. They think of kings and warriors. They tell me stories of might and power before they finally calm down enough to wonder how they might be leaders themselves. Their poor faces narrowed in confusion. Yes, I told them. You are leaders. If you don’t believe me, that’s OK. We’re all going to practice together. And this is what I really love about church. In the sanctuary of this time and these people, we get to imagine what it would be like to live in the spirit of God all of the time. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes we can’t get out of our own way but we try. We practice this possibility — as our kids did this morning with resources inspired by the new United Church of Christ curriculum Faith Practices. We practiced being leaders that were wise, knowledgeable and skillful.
Of course, this isn’t a new question for me. You might know that. It’s a question that I’ve been struggling with for some time now, but you probably heard me talk about sheep. I still don’t want to be a damn sheep. I don’t understand God’s realm that way. I don’t think that I’m called to be the one with all of the answers. That’s not the ministry that engages me. There are some things that I do want to teach. There are certain things that I’m fairly confident are true and I’m not really willing to compromise those things, but I still want to listen. I want to be involved in work that engages both our bodies, both our hearts and both our minds. No. I want more than that. I want ministry that engages all of us. Sometimes I’ll lead. Other times you’ll lead. Still there will be other times when the children know best. Or at least, that’s what I learned today.