Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Towards Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reading:  Mark 10:35-45
Theme: We are able

Jesus talks about godly, kingdom-style leadership as servanthood -- contrasting
  • leaders of the day, not of the covenant community but to whom the people of the covenant are subject, who rely on power to enforce what they see as the best policy for all, with
  • leaders who serve the needs of the people in their charge by becoming "slaves" to their people's needs regardless of what it costs them, rather than masters of the people's lives regardless of what it costs the people.
Not that his disciples will ever rise or be invited to the position of king, governor, procurator or even mayor of any city of their time (as much as they thought they would).  The point is that they can (and are called to) exercise that kind of servant-hood in their personal and communal lives wherever they are, every day and week of their lives -- and in that way, change the world.

In Toronto at the ferry terminal there's a memorial statue to Jack Layton that offers a striking image of leadership -- a very different image of a political leader than we usually see.  Instead of standing alone on a pedestal, looking uniquely regal or wise or strong, Jack is seated on the back seat of a tandem bike, ready to provide the pedal power to help whoever sits in the front seat, to get to where they need to go. 

This is not to say that only Layton and/or the NDP offer such an image of leadership, nor that this is the whole of what can be said good or bad about Layton or the NDP.  The point is, it is an intriguing image of what servant-hood might mean today for people like us in positions of privilege in the world and in our own society -- providing the pedal power to help others without the resources we have at our disposal, to get to where they need to go. 

Within the Liberal tradition, maybe think of Lester Pearson's creation of the UN Peacekeeping mission during the Suez Crisis -- a new political model for our time by which non-combatant countries use their resources to create time and space for countries in conflict to resolve their differences and meet their own and the other's needs in more constructive ways than war ever allows for. 

Regardless of what else may be said both good and bad about Pearson and the Liberals, and even of the way UN Peacekeeping has devolved, is not this mythic image of Pearson an image maybe of God's way of life in our time that somehow still speaks to our highest self, and that we are called to live out in our own lives and communities?

Among Conservatives, maybe think of Robert Stanfield -- a good and quiet man with sound and compassionate policies, who never got a fair shake in the national media.  Remember the unfortunate and mean-spirited story and image of him fumbling a football? 

It was just one of several instances of a good, compassionate man serving others well and humbly, quietly accepting his fate in the public eye.  And regardless of what else may be said of him, is this image and memory of his public career perhaps not a modern echo of Jesus being portrayed in the media of his day as a bumbler when it came to matters of theology and law, accused in the attack ads of his day as a son of Beelzebul and by the government as a heretic and traitor, in the end quietly accepting his fate at their hands, letting the future of the kingdom of God rest not in his power but in the hands of God beyond him?   Does not this image of a leader's character still speak somehow to our own deepest soul, and remind us of the humble, selfless service of others' needs regardless of our own fate, that we are called to live out ourselves?

Jesus talked a lot about the kind of life we are called to live as God's people in the world, and used the public images of leaders of his day to help flesh out the call.  Are there particular images of servant-leadership today that help you to picture what it means to you to live and serve in God's way in your life, and in the world you live in?

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