Friday, June 29, 2007

Leadership in community

Sermon thoughts---
Readings here
The readings today point to issues of leadership in community. How are leaders selected? How will the community be maintained? How to lead in a time of rapid change?
Not too many of us will have Elisha's experience of seeing one's mentor swept up in a whirlwind on chariots and horses of fire and having the mantle of leadership fall on us. Or perhaps selection as a leader can happen like that. I know for other congregations in discernment for their leaders of various ministries - it is often a surprise to a person when she or he is selected. Thoughts of "not worthy," "not prepared," and "who me," pass through one's heart and mind. Just like Elisha - it will take some time to live into the role, learn the skills, and become competent and at ease. It takes time for others to see us in a new role. We are the same but we become changed.
Paul's letter to the Galatians has been talking about how to live as a community called church. Last week we read that he wrote about being freed from our imprisonments. Much of his letter had been about the pains that the Galatian community has suffered but last we heard about the rewards - that in baptism we are no longer stuck in the prisons of social construction - class, race, ethnicity, even gender. Today we hear about the things that will lure us back into our prisons and away from the freedom of Christ. Fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. Some of these are about personal holiness of life - but most are about how we are to live together. It takes both individual choices and community choices to be a holy people in a holy gathering. Ten of the 15 items are about community and the others affect life in a community even though more personal.
Paul recommends actions that counteract these activities. He says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." When tempted to respond in anger - choose to rest in the gifts of the Spirit. When jealous of others rewards - choose to take joy in their successes. The first reaction is often from the first list - the choice empowered by the Spirit comes from the second list. It takes practice. It is part of the growing into the full nature of Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus offers his thoughts on leadership and change. It is true that the only thing that stays the same is change. In our lifetimes or the lifetime of this church, much has changed. From the days of "Rossie" - Adeline Ross, offering Sunday School classes around the county through the heyday of the 50s and every family bringing 3-4 or more children to Sunday School to today with changing leadership needs and much in the world competing for the small hour per week of Sunday that we give in worship of the one who created and sustains us. Jesus is not saying the old days were bad but that today is a different time and calls us to new ways of being church. We often confuse different with "good and bad" -- things can just be different and call us to new ways without denying the old ways and the benefits of their time. Jesus is saying, I believe, that some of our old ways must be laid down in order to make way for what we need to do now.
What are those things that we need to let go of in our own lives and the life of this church. What are the doors that are opening -that we need to walk through? Where is the Spirit leading? Where is God leading us to go? The psalmist promises that God will lead us like a shepherd, lead us by taking our hands and calming our fears when the way seems hard, rejoice with us when we come into our new way of being.
The Collect today prayed:
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; -- let us say "yes" and build on that foundation - join together in unity of spirit and become that holy temple. AMEN.