Leader: Podcast on Matthew 3:1-12
#Leader is the Podcast for December 4, 2016. I want the qualities of goodness and justice in a president outlined in Isaiah, Matthew, Psalm 72, and Romans. Which candidate in this past US Presidential Election fit the bill? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Justice #Advent #Matthew #Matthew3 #Leader #Leadership #Righteouness #Community #Church #Faith #Priority
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/4/2016 The 2nd Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 3:1-12; Romans 15:4-7; Psalm 72 and Isaiah 11:1-10.
A leader does what is right for the people at the greatest of personal sacrifice, if necessary.
I want a president who has a fear of God. I want a president who has a spirit of knowledge. I want a president who has a spirit of might, a spirit of counsel, a spirit of understanding, a spirit of wisdom, and the gifts of piety and inspiration. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit laid out in Isaiah 11 as the gifts of the future root of Jesse, a king from the line of King David, who will lead us. These are the things for which we pray that President Obama has and that President-elect Donald Trump will have. Yet, as the history of Israel and Judah go, we will be sadly disappointed.
Ever since Israel rejected the sons of Samuel, the prophet, as judges over Israel and asked for a king, leadership has been caught up in the worldly pursuits and self-interest of the leader. As we see in Psalm 72, which is thought to be a hymn sung at a king’s coronation, Israel prays that their leaders will have righteousness, defend the cause of the poor, deliver the needy, be a bringer of peace, and one who represents God to the people and the people to the Lord. Yet, they have been treated more like God said would happen when they asked for a king: they have had the best taken from them and given to others, fought wars not in their personal interest, and have not been remembered when there was financial success for the whole nation. Sound familiar?
It is hard to have faith in human institutions. Yet, as the Sadducees and Pharisees come out to approach John the Baptist, they are seeking a political solution. Their desire is to be baptized for repentance in preparation for the deliverance of the people of Palestine from Roman rule in a political coup. As the rationale goes, if they repent, God will give them the kingdom they want. In all, usually, what we want is for our leaders to give us what we want. It is a manipulation of God. There is a greater purpose than our own comfort and self-defined well being.
When John the Baptist comes, he warns the leaders that this new king is about something greater than world power. He is about transformation of each individual person and the entire universe. There is a spiritual component and dimension to the baptism that Jesus will bring, says John. It will be a baptism that is deeply spiritual and sees the connections of all humanity being in the same boat. It is a baptism that will call people to challenge the earthly claims of power through a spiritual battle lived out in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ.
That battle is fought through the establishment of communities of hope who follow Jesus Christ as King. They are communities that drip with the Holy Spirit’s hope because there really is only one king that is consistently concerned about the fear of God, knowledge, might, counsel, understanding, wisdom, piety, inspiration, peace, the needs of the poor and outcast, and hope. That one is Jesus Christ. He calls us to live in communities that are welcoming to the least, lost, and lonely. He calls us to live as servants to one another. We are called to show God’s truthfulness to one another, in speech and action. Those commands are not easy. They cannot be done by those who depend only upon themselves.
In living in this way, we establish beach heads that are able to mobilize our efforts to create peace and justice through the alleviation of suffering in our communities. In other words, Church ought to be the place we come to where we say, “Whew, at least when the rest of the world goes to hell, and we are worn out by it, here is a place we can come and know that we haven’t lost our minds.” It is a place where the people have agreed to abide by the code of generosity, loyalty, fidelity, and mercy that we have been commanded to follow by the Lord Jesus Christ, a king who does things right.
He comes to baptize us with fire, that is, an examination of ourselves. Fire is a trial of being faithful to our holy and righteous code in the face of rejection by the world, loss of profits, being hung out to dry at work, losing friends or family relationships, and the list goes on of the ways that the world will treat us. Church, then, becomes the place where when the world is just out of control, that we live what we say we believe with others who do the same. At least, we fail or die trying.
Malachi told us that Elijah would come before the Messiah came. Then there was John. Isaiah told us a root of Jesse would come. Then there was Jesus. St. Paul said that we should be a community of hope. Then we were given the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are enumerated in Isaiah and Romans. They tell us that the King who has these qualities that we seem to long for in a president will come not from an earthly leader, but from one who baptizes with fire.
So, for everyone who is delighting in the results of the election and everyone who is depressed at those same results, I say, “Curb your enthusiasm and your depression.” Either way, you are or were placing your hope in a human being who has self-interests. Instead, I propose, as does John the Baptist and Paul, that we refocus on the one we can really trust, Jesus Christ. There is one Root of Jesse who has all the qualities that we want in a leader. It is in the collective of the personal relationships we have with Jesus Christ that we have perspective, know all is not won nor lost. It is in Christ that we can avoid getting swept up in hysteria or despair. It is Christ who is the king, the one who was sold out by those who were supposedly on his team, the one who was unjustly convicted, beat in police custody, and the one who was willing to gut it out on the cross for three hours to save your soul, who is our example of what it means to be a leader. A leader does what is right for the people at the greatest of personal sacrifice, if necessary.
When Jesus is our first priority, all life is in perspective. When Jesus is our first priority, that is, when he is our king, then our goals for how we gather as a community get clarity. When Jesus is our first priority, we change our desires for our own lives from our own security to the mission of God. When Jesus is our first priority, it changes all the questions of life, of family, of community, of leadership.
Be of good humor, great courage, of might: Jesus is OUR leader, our king. We are bound to the one who changes us so we, as a community, can be an ensign to the world of what it means to lead and follow with a true leader with the interests of the people at heart. Come, we will follow our king. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian