We have plenty of examples of good leadership right here in the community of James and Andrew. Our clergy have led us thru an unprecedented pandemic and into a new world with love, companionship and eyes clear to the reality surrounding us (well, as clear as that reality could ever be!). Leaders of mission and liturgy teams have carried on thru it all, holding in delicate balance safety and the physical and spiritual needs of this community.
In contrast, we see the kind of leader David has become. Samuel warned us about this kind of king; one who shirks his duties and focuses on his own interests. He warned that such kings would send our sons to war, make servants of our daughters and take our harvest.
David’s leadership sins are quite straightforward: he avoided his duty (it was the season when kings went with their warriors to war), he stayed at home, he demonstrated idleness, and he gave in to his compulsions, he had sex with his best warrior’s wife and then manipulated events to cover up his sins.
Fast forward many troubled years and troubled leaders later and into this world steps Jesus. It seems he will have none of it. The people and the disciples clamor for his kingship and he repeatedly declines. Instead, he offers himself as a companion, a companion who will not just give us bread today, but one whose values and ideals can turn our hearts of stone to hearts of love and one with whom we can break bread forever.
It is always tempting to focus on the miracle in these stories, but I think that God is not present in the miracles or in the very bad things that happen in this world. What matters is not the miracle, but the presence, Jesus on the beach, in the boat, on the mountain, with us always, Jesus in the garden, in the kitchen and in the sanctuary.
He tried to teach that the needs of the world are never too great if we follow his direction: he instructed the disciples, told the people to sit down, took the small amount of food, blessed it and shared it. He showed that there was plenty for everyone with much left over; he challenged us to shift our consciousness from a mentality of scarcity to one of abundance. When I bring a small surplus of vegetables and flowers from my backyard garden and from your gardens to the gathering place, I am blown away by the carload of fresh vegetables that are taken to the food pantry in Turners Falls every week. Everyone’s donation is small, everyone gives as they are able. It is an abundant harvest. If you’ve ever watched an army of tiny ants build a nest or honeybees gather pollen, you can see how working together for the common good leads to all good things.
Jesus gives leadership advice: do the work, do it with love, and companionship, and maintain this attitude of abundance, even when you are feeling small and weak, and remember that I will be with you always.
Jesus was not interested in David’s kind of leadership. In fact, when the crowds clammored for him to be king, and actually tried to come by force to make him king, he does what he often does. He retreats to the mountain to pray, practicing a healthy rhythm of action and contemplation, a rhythm we might benefit from mimicking as Heather often reminds us. When the going gets rough for the disciples, the waters calm and they reach shore after they take Jesus into the boat.
Most of all, Jesus wanted us to understand that he would always be with us, he knew his fate and he knew what life would be like for us. We never needed an earthly king, if we want to feed and lead the world we need to follow a heavenly king.
“the king of love our shepherd is
His goodness faileth never,
We nothing lack if we are his
And he is ours forever.” Amen
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