Leadership as a Saint and Sinner
Jesus was a leader in his 1st century Roman-occupied Palestine and Jewish context.
Jesus still leads today. Jesus called others to lead with him. In his leadership, they not only became followers or disciples, but were his partners, his friends. When we were baptized we became a part of Jesus’ servant community in the world. In baptism we pledged our willingness to follow where Jesus is leading and to lead where Jesus is leading.
Jesus’ leadership in his context was to help people overcome their deep despair for a better world. Many felt that the messiah would have to come first and set things to right. The Messiah would have to kick out the Romans in a bloody war. Once that was done, then they could begin to live as God intended. Until then, all they could do was faithfully wait.
Jesus led them to see that God was already working toward the healing of the whole creation and human society, and that God invited people to participate in that healing. They were to begin now to live the kingdom of God and to trust that God’s kingdom was already among them in community.
In TCC we understand that
Jesus is a nonviolent leader who reorients people from domination culture to God’s Way of Mutuality.
This deep despair for a better world still dominates our personal and communal perspectives. The leadership of Jesus is still needed and he continues to provide that leadership through us.
When we were baptized, we became a part of the servant community of those who follow Jesus’ leadership and who lead as and to where Jesus leads.
When we were baptized, the cross of Jesus was placed in the center of our being. This cross reminds us of our mortality, vulnerability, and limitations. It teaches us that because human life was good enough for God in Jesus, it is also good enough for us. Baptism teaches us to embrace our human condition.
The cross also becomes a symbol for us of the cost of servant leadership in the world. Jesus asks us to hold in one hand the world the way it is now, and in the other to hold the world as God envisions it. This is a painful stance toward the world, and it forms us into a cross. The cross of baptism teaches us that the way Jesus’ servant community begins to bring healing is to suffer with a hurting world without resorting to violence.
When we were baptized, the resurrection of Jesus was placed in the center of our being. This resurrection reminds us that God is a God of life who promises to give life again. It teaches us that because God promises new life that we can be leaders with Jesus with courage because God will vindicate that leadership. Baptism teaches us that we can provide courageous leadership in the world.
The resurrection becomes a symbol for us of the promise of servant leadership in the world. Jesus asks us to take a painful stance of suffering with a hurting world, but suffering is not the goal. God is bringing healing to the creation and human societies and promises that work will be complete. Between now and then, we live in the promise of that resurrection and can engage in the risky business of leadership with Jesus with hope, guided by the Holy Spirit.
Each person, then, can be symbolized by an open circle with a cross in the center. This cross is empty, so it also symbolizes the resurrection.
The Shape of Servant Community
The Servant Community that Jesus intended to create has a shape: an open circle. We remain open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as tradition, reason, and scripture continue to form us. The circle is open to welcome new ideas, new people, and to symbolize our willingness to change when it is called for. All such change needs to be measured by the cross and resurrection. The church has not always behaved as a circle, and we are continually reforming to live more that way.
All Are Leaders:
All people around the circle are called to leadership. A leader is anyone in the circle who is called to step forward to provide orientation to Jesus Christ, help clarify the group’s purpose, values, and methods, mobilize the group to participate in the reign of God and then step back into the circle.
One of the core understandings of the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions is that we are all saints and sinners at the same time. As Bishop N.T. Wright has said, “The line between good and evil is a line that goes through all of us.”
Therefore, when we participate with Jesus in being daily reoriented to God’s way of mutuality, we realize that we do not own or possess this way, but are still learning.
In TCC we encourage each other to remember that we all are leaders, but we all lead as saints and sinners:
- To lead without having to win
- To trust without having to be certain
- To ask questions without having THE answers
- To try without having to succeed
God is the one who brings God’s way of mutuality.
It is very easy for us human beings to try to justify our lives on the basis of what we are able to accomplish. Sometimes that trap will catch us!
But our loving God and our supportive community can remind us that we are God’s beloved saints and sinners who don’t need to win to be loved.