Monday, February 18, 2008

Leading & Following

Monday, February 18, 2008 -- Week of 2 Lent
(Martin Luther, Reformer, 1546)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning) 64, 65 (evening)
Genesis 41:46-57
1 Corinthians 4:8-20(21)
Mark 3:7-19a

In each of our readings today there is something about the relationships between leader and followers, principal and delegate.

Joseph rises to a status of great authority in the Pharaoh's government. We see him leading a bureaucratic agency of the government, overseeing a state program to collect, preserve and store surplus produce during seven years of fruitful harvest. He has seen in a dream (an economic forecast?) that there will be a prolonged downturn in agricultural production, and he is leading the planning for that eventuality.

I'm a fan of good government. There are things that only government can do well. I want government that seeks to promote the well-being of its citizens and respond to those needs that aren't going to be covered in a profit-driven economy. Good government can think long-term and oversee larger cooperative projects for the corporate good. But that requires that those who work in government be more committed to service than to power, to be more statesmen than politicians. You can almost gauge the health or brokenness of a culture by measuring its leaders place on the service-power continuum. Later in this story we'll see the corruption of Joseph's plan as he consolidates Pharaoh's power, trading food for money, land and eventually freedom, enslaving large groups of hungry Egyptians and neighbors. Ambitious, power-driven leaders spawn destructive followers.

Paul complains of the arrogance of his "children" in the congregation at Corinth. He is calling them away from their smug comforts and encouraging them to follow his lead. He has sacrificed to be the servant of Christ in service to God's people. He tells them to follow his path of humility and service -- that is the source of true power. Power comes from God and is manifest in faithful discipleship. Paul wants to see some reform in the Corinthian church.

And today we see Jesus calling the twelve. First we see the authority of his ministry. He travels throughout the Jewish regions, attracting multitudes that are growing beyond one man's management. His work is healing, exorcism and teaching. So he appoints the twelve and names them "apostles," a Greek term for messenger. He delegates them to act in his behalf -- healing, exorcising, and proclaiming the message, first in Israel. Later he will draw them into the same ministries outside Israel.

We've been given the same appointment. We are Christ's representatives in our day. He has given us the message to share and the same ministry of healing and reconciliation. We are to face boldly the demons of our day, to expose them to the light and strip them of their power. We are to be the whistleblowers and the people who speak truth to power. If we do our job well, we'll probably get in as much trouble as Jesus and his disciples did -- religious and political trouble. The temptation is to kiss up to power, as Joseph eventually did, or to drift toward smug comforts, like the congregation in Corinth.

For good to happen we need good leaders and good followers. Servant leadership is the model Jesus gives us. We are all going to follow someone and some thing. Will it be in the service of service or in the service of power? That is a challenge each of us must face.


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:30 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

The Servant leader, like Paul in today's reading, sometimes has to speak softly but carry a big stick.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I think it is significant that Paul only speaks of coming to them with a stick. And I presume his would be a verbal, not a physical stick.

It bothers me deeply how violent our culture is. When we correct our children with forms of corporal punishment, we teach them that we adults don't have any more creative way to solve problems when we get frustrated than with violence. We teach them that the physically threatening and violent get their way. Dangerous lessons.


At 9:59 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Yes, Ahimsa starts at home.


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