#ToLead is the podcast for November 25, 2018. Do Christians have something to say about leadership to the world? If Jesus Christ has anything to do with us, yes we do. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John18 #John #ServantLeader #King #ChristtheKing
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 11/25/2018 Christ the King Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read John 18:33-38.
In the United States, we celebrate a holiday called “Thanksgiving”. It is meant to commemorate the relief that the Puritan settlers felt in surviving their first New England winter, with the help of the Wampanoag Tribe who taught them the survival skills necessary. It was last Thursday, which is why I mention it.
I also mention it because the history of Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day in America, is becoming more and more controversial because of the conflict between different parts of Americans. There are those who see Thanksgiving as a wiping out of Native American dominance when the Puritans arrived and there are those who don’t. Wait, there is more.
This controversy spilled out in a 2011 op/ed on Huffingtonpost.com by Richard Shiffman (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/the-thanksgiving-truth_b_1105181.html). Shiffman is an environmental journalist whose work often appears in publications like the Huffington Post, the Guardian, and other left leaning outlets. Shiffman wrote this op/ed about Thanksgiving in the Huffington Post to counter a diatribe from ultra conservative pro-corporate America radio host Rush Limbaugh about Thanksgiving.
Limbaugh declared that Thanksgiving was a triumph for capitalism. He said that the first year of trouble was when the Puritans had a communal work ethic. Limbaugh said, according to Shiffman, that after each Puritan was given their own private plot to grow their own crops and become self-sufficient things turned around dramatically. Then, in celebration of their self-sufficiency, they had a party.
Shiffman argues that this ignores the genocide committed against the Wampanoag and the Pequot tribes by Pilgrims and Puritans alike. So, thus begins the squabbling over Thanksgiving before we even get to the table. Thank the Lord for Dr. Jane Kamensky, history professor at Harvard, who said that the present reality should probably overshadow the historical accuracy. In other words, maybe “Thanksgiving” should be about giving thanks. Who knew?
Why am I even bringing this up? I am bringing this up because in today’s Gospel, we have two people having a conversation about the same event and they are not speaking the same language. The two people are Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, and Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, enforcer of Caesar of Rome.
Jesus is brought to Pilate by the Jewish authorities to be crucified, a political punishment, with the charge that he is challenging Caesar to be King of the Jews. This is odd, as Pilate’s questioning shows, because the Jews hated that Caesar was king over them and felt they deserved their own king. So, to have Jesus brought to him by the Jews, seems a rather shrewd political move by the Jewish authorities to rid themselves of Jesus. Pilate is determined to find out what stinks in Denmark, or Jerusalem, as the case may be. His focus is on this: “do I have an insurrection here?”
The questions that Pilate asks are political: “Are you the King of the Jews?” “So, you are a king?” “What is truth?”
Jesus’ questions and statements are of belief, faith, idealism, and truth: “Are you asking for you or for others?” “My kingship is not of this world….Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
The irony of the whole situation is that the one through whom Pilate is granted the ability to exercise power is the one who refuses to exercise that power to gain political control, and he is the One who is standing right in front of him. While Pilate vacillates back and forth to figure out the politics of it all and to preserve himself at all costs, Jesus stands ready to die for his cause, the Truth.
As we celebrate Christ the King with white vestments to celebrate his purity, his power, his majesty, and we sing songs of his Lordship over our lives, we are called to remember that as Christians, we look to Jesus Christ as our example for leadership. Are our leaders in the Church, our families, and in politics those who are willing to give up immediate economic personal gain for the principles upon which we stand? Are our leaders willing to give up their rightful authority, like Jesus is in not forcing the issue with Pilate and the Jews, because they will stand for Truth? Are our leaders willing to live our lives, endure the pain of their own self-sacrifice, like Jesus Christ shows us is the way?
No leader is perfect, but the contribution we make to the world conversation as Christians, is that we demand that our leaders bear, at least in part, the marks of Christ in what they do, not just what they say. We know what a King is supposed to look like because we have One who came, made himself lower, served us, was unjustly convicted of a non-crime, beaten to within an inch of his life, forced to carry the tools of his own execution, and then crucified in a public execution so that he could save us. We Christians say that being a leader in any nation is about serving the people and leading whatever nation as a nation to serve the peoples of the world.
It is similar to the ideal of marriage, where the two are serving each other so much that they don’t even realize that their needs are met by how they are “outdoing each other in love”. If every nation on earth were urged to have leaders that sacrificed for the good of all, not the few, and then served on behalf of all the nations, not the few, then imagine the world we could have.
Pilate says, “What is truth?” because the only truth to him is the service to the self, benefit to the self, self-interest, and glorified selfishness dressed up as privilege and power. Jesus says, “I have come to bear witness to the Truth,” because he knows that in the end, when heaven and earth are transformed, we will shall be like him and all there will be is truth. No slave nor free; no Jew nor Greek; no male nor female; no Puritan nor Wampanoag, no division anymore. We shall be one because God himself is one.
Usually, on Christ the King Sunday, I inevitably ask the question, who is your king? Who is the Lord of your life? If it is Jesus Christ, which I am assuming it is because you are listening to me speak right now, then you MUST stand for Truth over anything else. This is hard, because we often mistake self-interest for truth, the same thing that Pilate did. We have to reject this notion.
Everything about what we proclaim about God, Jesus Christ, Messiah-ship, and leadership is about service. It is service to those around us, but also, service to the world. This selflessness is first seen in how God did not just want to be God in his goodness for himself. He felt the need to give life to others. Then, when we were and are lost in our sin, our failures, our deficiencies, he came to be our Savior, as the hymn says, “in human vesture.” He did this to suffer like us to share in our suffering. That is service. He came to deliver us in glory. That is service.
So, as we go [from listening to this podcast] [from this place] to lead our nations, our families, our companies, our church, our communities, our world, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters of other countries in their need, we go to serve because he served us. We show our obedience to our King when we serve others and serve the truth in service to Him, Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. We ought to expect nothing less from those who wish to lead. 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, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian