Today we hear from a fellow fool, who just had a few amazing thoughts to share about Holy week and today. If you want to see more from our friend, Rev. Shannon Meacham, check her out over at her blog: https://pulpitshenanigans.wordpress.com/
We’re in the throes of Holy Week. We celebrated, waved palms, shouted Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! And now gathered at the Last Supper.
I could spend the rest of my life digging into the social, political and religious implications of the stories we read just this week. I could devote a lifetime to asking questions about what it means to be a disciple from the passion story alone.
As progressive Christians we tend to shy away from the violent, blood shedding texts of the Passion story, but these passion stories tell us so much about the dynamics of what it is to lead people.
I’ve been struggling with leadership lately. I serve a church community, I serve a non-profit, and I serve at my denominations higher governing body. I also serve my family and friends. A few weeks ago all of the ways I serve as a leader came to a head. It was like I all of a sudden had a target on my back. The roles in which I was in leadership converged at the same time and attacked, completely independently from one another. Sometimes it just happens that way.
I had a choice to make, I had discerned, I had prayed, I had thought hard and logically about what to do and where to go. Then, I decided to throw it all out the window. I needed to stand up for injustice, I needed to be of service to my God and therefore, my people. Which (although I am no where close to being Jesus) was exactly the kind of leader Jesus was.
Jesus came to turn everything on it’s head. The last shall be first, etc. Today, I will read the story of the passion where Jesus, once arrested, will be passed from one person of powerful leadership to another. His arrest is plotted and executed by the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the council. The council passes him to Pontius Pilate, a Roman Prefect (like a governor) who will wash his hands of the death of Jesus.
He found nothing wrong with this man, Jesus had broken no law according to Pilate, yet he washes his hands rather than stand up to the religious leaders and the crowd (who had been riled up according to the gospels by the high priest). Washes his hands of a man’s life, rather than stand up. What a wimp.
Leadership, it seems, is for wimps.
Leadership the way it has been established in our systems is for wimps, the faint of heart, cowards. People who do not have enough gumption of their own to stand up for justice that they hide behind systems, offices, and titles. This system is set up for leadership to use and abuse power, hide behind power. When you give someone power enough to make decisions on behalf of someone else without needing or requesting their input it is easier than not to get drunk on the “authority” that has been given.
Throughout the story of Jesus he is watched, closely, by leadership. According to Matthew at his birth the leadership was terrified of him they slaughtered all male children under the age of 2. He is questioned and attempted to be tricked time and time again throughout his ministry. I can hear the priests behind locked doors asking “how can we trust him when he isn’t one of us?” Wimps.
Finally, they can’t control him and it drives them so crazy they move into intimidation and bribery. After his arrest he is passed from up the ladder of leadership, each one not wanting to be the one who is responsible for an innocent man’s life, yet not risking anything to stop it. Wimps, passing the buck.
In the questioning of Jesus by Pilate Jesus says that his authority is of Heaven, not of earth. He is a leader the way God calls us to be. We refer to it as “Servant Leadership.” Matthew 20:28 Jesus says he came not to be served but to serve and give his life for many.
Servant leadership is a model of giving away power and authority you have been given. Using your gifts and skills for the betterment of the world, empowering others, leading others to power so they too can give it away. There are many, many problems with this in our world.
First, empowering others is true power, power in community, power to stand up for one another and say stop, enough. If you hurt one of us, you hurt us all. We celebrate together, we mourn together, we pray together. And it terrifies wimps.
Second, when you use your leadership to give power away and create community you often times lead by example. There’s a lot of grunt work involved, there’s a lot of moments where you take a punch because your job is to stand between systemic power and those whom they are hurting. You live with a target on your back as the one who created an uprising.
But this kind of leadership is strength. It is the strength of faith, of community, and the reign of God on earth. This type of leadership is what allows movements and communities to keep going long after one leader is gone. We may be betrayed for it, we may be flogged for it, we may even be killed for it. But I’d rather die in servant leadership than be a wimp.
The disciples (not just the 12 but all the followers of Jesus) took too long to learn this lesson. They didn’t really learn until after the resurrection. Fear overtook them when their time came to stand up. We can learn from this, we can rectify their mistake. We can stand empowered today as servant leaders, in communities of other servant leaders, each according to their own gifts, united in strength.
Thanks be to God. Amen.