Again this week we hear from the incomparable Ms. Lauri Muller! Lauri was gracious enough to agree to be our Devotional writer for two weeks in a row. We greatly appreciate Lauri’s devotion to her faith and our community here at the Coop. We see her “living out her priesthood” everyday and are inspired.
A pastor who seemed to have this incredible committed following of flock in his congregation was asked, “Pastor, how do you get people to be so committed to the church and to its mission.” This pastor hadn’t realized that he had done anything specifically and yet the prodding continued. “Yes, but Pastor your congregation is so committed and alive in their faith, how do you get them to do it?” The pastor thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t get them to do it. God has taken a hold of their hearts. He is the one who does it. As there pastor, I just pave opportunities for my parishioners to experience, reflect and share that which God has done with their hearts. I am the Shepherd of the sheep not their creator. God provides the food and the water and the sun and the air. I am a steward of these provisions and this flock. All I do is lead them and care for them on the journey.”
We have an interesting relationship in this country with places of authority. In our inception we were founded on the premise of resisting the authority that threatened the people of that day. Still to this day, as a culture we are often skeptical of those in power positions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Accountability for leaders and those with great responsibility is a valid and healthy goal. However, as a culture, we also many times operate out of an attitude of “it’s not my job.” One of my biggest pet peeves is discussing a political figure with someone that they are riled about, and then asking them, “well did you vote?” To which they respond, “no.”
What is the best formula for accountability, dedication, support and following which the writer of Hebrews is suggesting for us within the church? I’m not sure there is a distinct formula. If we take a cue from the pastor referred to in the beginning of this devotional an engage in following our leaders in a manner reflective of our love and faith in Jesus Christ we can trust that our relationship with our leadership will be molded into a healthy and fruitful experience.
During this transition, we as a congregation have learned a fair amount about ways we can foster and create more healthy experiences within our relationship to our leadership. We have learned the value of multiple avenues and opportunities of communication. We have seen lay leaders step up in ways that have been pleasantly surprising and perhaps unexpected even to those people themselves. We have learned that Methodist can do sung liturgy and that Lutherans having amazing capacity for social justice action. We have recognized our shortfalls in supporting or pastoral leadership. We have discovered that although the pastoral leadership blesses this community in amazing ways and that we hold great value for their place in our congregation…they are not who we are, they are a part of us. We have seen our council step up and lead in ways that are not easy and demand much time and effort and considerably add blessing and value to our congregation. We have learned to be honest in ways that we perhaps ignored previously. And we have also become intimately aware of the places we still need growth and transformation.
As we welcome our new interim pastor, Pastor Kathy, we have an opportunity to continue seeking growth and vision and transformation. We also have the ability to return some of the unhealthy practices that were holding us back. It is much more difficult to be an engaged and informed and thoughtful participant than it is to be a blind or distant follower. This congregation is our church family or spiritual home. We are called to care for our leadership and place trust in their gifts and desire to bless us. I have found Pastor Kathy to be a delight and I trust both the recommendation from Superintendent Peg and from Bishop Dave, as well as the thoughtful and prayerful discernment of both the council and Pastor Kathy who have enthusiastically partnered together with us to do this transitional work. I know that Pastor Kathy will not be able to come in here and just clean house, making everything new and right. However, she will be here caring for us and guiding us in a transformation that is rooted in God’s love and will for us as a congregation. She won’t be facilitating us as puppets but rather joining in this ministry with us. The best result for this work comes when we enter this time as engaged, thoughtful and cooperative stewards of the congregation, our community and our faith.
Hebrews outlines an example for us to be in relationship with our leadership with a joyful heart that fosters a confidence in their guidance. It calls us to be in prayer together for our leadership and to seek God’s will in our life together. May we be inspired by Kathy. May we be aware of ways we can engage. And may we welcome this incredible time of transition with joyful hearts. May we seek to live out our mission of working together with all people to restore all of creation to God’s loving embrace.
“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person’s life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.” – Shannon L. Alder
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” – Ellen DeGeneres
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”. – Francis of Assisi
“Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian’s freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian’s evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.” – Lutheran Scholar Paul Althaus
“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” – John Buchan
“I would take each and every one of these dwarves over the mightiest army. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that.” – Thorin Oakenshield, from the “The Hobbit”
“It’s almost funny. I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it’s the only thing I want to do.” – from “Mr. Holland’s Opus”
Hebrews 13:17-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
18 Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Who has inspired your faith journey?
Who has challenged you?
How are you living out the priesthood?