Week of Proper 15: Saturday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  YHWH in Hebrew

Servant Leadership and the Common Good

AUGUST 25, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezekiel 43:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then he led me to a gate, the gate that faced east.  And there, coming from the east with a roar like the roar of mighty waters, was the Presence of the God of Israel, and the earth was lit up by His Presence.  The vision was like the vision I had seen by the Chebar Canal.  Forthwith, I fell on my face.

The Presence of the LORD entered the Temple by the gate that faced eastward.  A spirit carried me into the inner court, and lo, the Presence of the LORD filled the Temple; and I heard speech addressed to me from the Temple, though [the] man was standing beside me.  It said to me:

O mortal, this is the place of My throne and the place for the soles of My feet, where I dwell in the midst of the people Israel forever.  The House of Israel and their kings must not again defile My holy name by their apostasy and by the corpses of of their kings at their death.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 23:1-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples.

The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,

he told them,

so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions.  But you must not imitate their lives!  For they preach but do not practise.  They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders–yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives and planned with an eye to effect.  They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their robes; they love seats of honour at dinner parties and front places in the synagogues.  They love to be greeted with respect in public places and to have men call them ‘rabbi!”  Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi”–you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers.  And don’t call any human being ‘father’–for you have one Father and he is in Heaven.  And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’–you have only leader, Christ!  The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others.  For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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We read in Ezekiel 43 of the divine presence returning to the Temple complex.  The divine presence had left that site earlier in the book.  So, not only exiles return to their ancestral homeland, but God will dwell among them.

That rebuilt and expanded Temple complex was central to the scribes and Pharisees of whom Jesus spoke in Matthew 23.  “Do what they say but not as they do,” he said in so many words.  Those who looked religious but lacked proper attitudes–in this case, of servanthood–were not fit role models.

We need servant leaders.  The best definition of servant leadership comes from Bishop Bennett J. Sims, late of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.  He wrote the following in Servanthood:  Leadership for the Third Millennium (1997; reprinted in 2005 by Wipf and Stock Pubishers, Eugene, Oregon):

Servant leadership defines success as giving, and measures achievement by devotion to serving.  Winning becomes the creation of community through collaboration, rather than the conquest of others by competition or crushing military superiority.  In terms of servant leadership, being a “superpower” means using the nation’s material, military, and spiritual wealth to help fulfill the longing of all people for a secure and healthy place in which to live.–page 13

(The book, by the way, is worth reading and rereading.)

The vision of restoration in the latter chapters of Ezekiel is one in which people have what they need, love and worship God, and seek righteousness.  Such a state is not one anybody or any group of people can create through force or a political program.  No, this vision can become reality only by means of grace and our voluntary, favorable responses to God and each other.  It is a worthy goal.

KRT

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