James 3:1-5, 13-18
September 9, 2012
Today we celebrate leadership! That’s a big part of what were doing in this service. We’re celebrating! We gather today as one body. Yes, we are many people. And yes, we have diverse points of view. But we come together at this time to welcome into the leadership of this Church, those who we trust that God has called.
That’s what this is. This is about a calling. If you’re familiar with the process of hiring a minister, you know that the actual position in a church, and the document which makes that position official, (That which is usually called a contract) are both referred to as a “Call.”
We Presbyterians believe that service in the church is viewed as being a call from God. And we believe that the same concept of a calling applies to all leaders in the Church ministers, elders, deacons, or trustees! We believe that the process of electing people to be the leaders of the church, like we’ve done today, is a participation in the call of God on peoples lives. And that call is not unlike the call of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul.
I always tell nominating committees, that their job is not just about filling slots. Their job is to discern the will of God. They’re job is to figure out who God has in mind for the various positions. That’s what we believe! I hope you see that! And I hope you see that that is an awesome responsibility! We believe God has called these people to these positions today. How does that make you feel, you who have just been installed? Anybody want to reconsider? (Too late!)
But its more than that. In a number of place in the New Testament, Paul writes about the responsibility of leadership. And in those writings, he always shows an awesome respect for those in positions of authority – which makes sense, since he was a leader himself. But in all that, Paul also recognizes the burden of leadership, He would agree with Jesus, who said in Luke 12, where he said, “Of those to whom much is given, much will be required.” That’s the burden of leadership. If you’re a leader, more will be required of you! How about it now? Anybody want to reconsider? (Again, it’s too late!)
Our passage from James echoes that sentiment. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) In other words, those who lead have a bigger responsibility – a bigger burden. Think about it. Those who lead are responsible for the spiritual direction of the larger whole. James gives the example of the small bit that guides a horse, and the small rudder that steers a whole ship. As the leaders we have installed today lead us, they are a small group. But like a rudder, they guide the larger church. Thats an awesome responsibility!!
For those of you in those positions, I want you to know that that calls for new ways of living. Leaders in the church are called to think differently. They are called to have the mind of Christ. They are called to love others as he loved others, and to lead others to do the same. They are called to lead the flock by the example of their lives. That’s a huge responsibility right there! As I’ve told the leadership of the Church on a number of occasions, if you expect the people of the church to be uplifting, to be involved, to be generous, and to be committed, then you need to be those things! And if all of that does not feel like a great responsibility yes, even a burden then you’re not understanding what you’ve been called to do. Anybody want to reconsider now?
While you’re thinking about that, let me tell you that this term the burden of leadership does not refer just to the leaders themselves. I’m going to let them off the hook for the moment. The rest of us – we are burdened with a responsibility, too. It is our responsibility to pray for, to uphold, to encourage, and to follow these new leaders! That’s our burden! And frankly I’m not sure whose is the greater burden! And it doesn’t matter who we are! Each of us has that responsibility! I hope all of you are willing, like these your leaders, to take that burden seriously!
So just for fun let me suggest a starting place in this. Let me suggest that you take seriously your responsibility to uphold and pray for your leaders. Let me suggest that each of you take this list of leaders home with you, (It’s there in the bulletin, and we’ll get it printed there next week, too.) And let me challenge each of you to pledge yourselves to pray for each of these leaders by name, maybe one each day, or maybe two. You might even check each of them off, so you don’t miss any of them. And when you get to the end of the list, start over. Ask God to uphold them, to fill them with his spirit, to guide them as they guide this congregation. Ask him to give peace to their families, healing where there is a need, and a spirit of love and grace as they fulfill their ministries. (And while you’re at it, please, do the same for me!)
Frankly, that’s not really a huge burden. It’s just a matter of discipline and diligence. But, if all of us would do that, who would doubt that there would be results? That is the burden to leadership a burden that’s on all of us! There’s no denying that. So let us take on that burden, and that responsibility, seriously, and joyfully.
Eternal God, you have called each of us into your kingdom, and into the joy of your service. Help us to grow in our commitment to you, and in our efforts to be responsible stewards of the gospel of grace which you have entrusted to us. May what we do here give glory and honor to your name. These things we pray in Jesus’ name, and for he sake of his kingdom, Amen.