Monday, April 07, 2008

Leadership

Monday, April 7, 2008 -- Week of 3 Easter

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, page 961)
Psalms 25 (morning) 9, 15 (evening)
Exodus 18:13-27
1 Peter 5:1-14
Matthew 1:(1-17); 3:1-6

We have several readings that reflect on leadership today.

In Exodus, Moses' father-in-law Jethro brings Moses' wife and two children to him and listens to the story of how God has delivered the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. The following day Jethro watches Moses at work. Moses sits as a teacher and judge, resolving issues, conflicts and questions. Jethro tells Moses, "What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." Jethro advises Moses to delegate authority to other leaders and let them take care of the minor issues, allowing Moses to concentrate on the major issues.

The author of 1 Peter also addresses leadership in the early church. His focus is the elders. "Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away."

He encourages the elders to be humble in their leadership. In one of the most succinct and helpful verses, he says, "Cast your anxiety on [God], because [God] cares for you." He urges discipline and courage in times of suffering. There is no need to be on the offensive. "Stand fast," he tells them. Christ has already won the victory. We simply stand in that triumph, unanxious and secure, even in the face of adversity.

Maybe it is a stretch, but we also see two reflections on leadership in the opening of Matthew which is our third reading. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus seeks to establish Jesus as the ancestor of Abraham and David. The writer traces fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile, and fourteen generations from the exile to Jesus the Messiah. He is asserting Jesus' authority as the longed-for Messiah.

The other part of our reading from Matthew gives us an image of charismatic, prophetic leadership. John the Baptist strikes a remarkable figure -- camel's hair clothing, eating locust and wild honey. He walks the alternative path, placing himself in the lineage of Elijah and the great prophets of old.

All of these images can be aspects of different forms of servant leadership. Moses empowers others to share in the work of teaching and problem solving. 1 Peter advises elders to a humble authority under God. Jesus comes as the inheritor of the Messianic title, and lives among us as one who serves. John the Baptist turns away from worldly power and invites his people to join him in the wilderness where they may commit themselves to reform their lives in a radical rededication to God.

The key to each of these is to live in relationship to God, trusting God and serving others. Servant leadership.

(One side note. Here's a trick trivia question. What was Moses' father-in-law's name? If you said "Jethro," you are right, at least from the strain of tradition we are reading today. But earlier, in Exodus 2, when Moses meets his father-in-law and is given his daughter Zipporah to marry, his name is Ruel. But in Numbers (10:29) and Judges (4:11), his name is Hobab. It is interesting how we have different memories preserved in the Scripture. The redactors respected the various ancient texts so much that they preserved them even when they were contradictory.

We also see contradictory traditions incorporated into our Christian New Testament. Today we read Matthew's genealogy, tracing Jesus' ancestry through his father Joseph back to King David through David's son Solomon. But Luke's genealogy (Luke 3) traces Joseph as a descendent of David through David's less acclaimed son Nathan. Matthew lists only 25 generations between David and Jesus (and we can see some skipping when some kings are left out); Luke lists 40 generations. Nevertheless, both authors are asserting the same Messianic claim -- Jesus is the Son of David -- but they trace Jesus' ancestry through two different lines of inheritance.

Biblical literalists play excruciating games trying to reconcile these differences. The rest of us just accept the two accounts as different versions of the same message.)

Lowell
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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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html


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 www.stpaulsfay.org

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

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