The Currency of Gracious Leadership

As we continue with our series based on the book Holy Currencies, the author Rev. Eric Law, says this about the Currency of Gracious Leadership:

Gracious leadership does not accept the linear, top-down, and static leadership style that assumes: “The first shall be first, and last shall be last.” In this kind of leadership, the powerful are always in control and have all the influence; conversely, the powerless are always without influence and power. Instead, gracious leaders follow Jesus’s circular way: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” Only in a circle can the first be last and the last be first. Gracious leadership is therefore reciprocal in sharing power. A leader does not lead all the time; neither does the follower always follow. Gracious leaders move in the rhythm of “lead-follow, lead-follow…,” which means that a teacher is a learner, and a learner is also a teacher. Gracious leaders do not direct, but collect and summarize. They do not decide for others, but rather decide with participation of all involved. They do not impose their values, but seek to find shared meaning with others. Gracious leaders do not focus on self-interest, but on community well being. (Page 94)

Lydia is one of my favourite women in the Bible and especially the new or second testament. She was a business woman… resourceful…

She is peaceful, yet attentive—good traits for a successful merchant—and she has learned to quickly assess potential buyers and sellers…In business, one must make quick judgments, synthesizing information. (Linday Hardin Freeman)

She is a leader in her community. She has initiative… and she is the first person in Europe to be baptized and follow the man Paul told her about… Jesus.

One of these days, I am going to take a trip to the Middle East and perhaps follow one of Paul’s journeys.

Just look at this:


This is quite a journey Paul undertook. Just a few short months ago, we could be on the other side of the world in less than 24 hours. It’s mind boggling to imagine the kind of journeys that Paul undertook… probably by foot, camel and water…

Both Lydia and Paul displayed leadership. Paul by undertaking long journeys and establishing Christian communities wherever he was welcomed. Lydia, by being open to God’s message right where she lived, worked and served God. Different ways of leading, but some of the same components.

I played around with the word ‘leadership’ and came up with the following graph:


Today’s sermon is a series of mini reflections based on those words, and an accompanying scriptural reference.

Our first scripture reading is taken from Proverbs 1; these are words attributed to Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

For learning about wisdom and instruction,
    for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
    righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
    knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
    and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The first words are Listening and LOVE: Let the wise also hear and gain in learning… for gracious leadership to flourish and be effective, we need to listen… listen for the spirit… listen to each other… listen to those outside our circles… in our case, listen to the community.

What learning, another ‘L’ word, might take place if we listen deeply to one another and to the spirit and to the community… me just might hear what God is calling us to be. And when we listen, are we listening for understanding, or to respond. And of course, are we listening with love?

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth:

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Indeed. If we do not have love at the core of what we do, we are a clanging gone. Without love, love of God, and love of neighbour and love of self, very little can be accomplished. I know that you all love our church… and want it to thrive… do you love it enough to allow it to change and grow… perhaps in unfamiliar ways?

EXCITEMENT – After all these years of ministry and church participation, there are still parts of the Bible that are unfamiliar to me. In doing a search for the word excitement in the Bible, I discovered a passage from Acts that I have never read. Peter had been imprisoned by King Herod for being a follower of Jesus and was sentenced to be killed… the night before his execution, angels came and led him out of the prison, despite being shackled to guards. He makes his way to the home of another follower of Jesus; let’s listen as the story unfolds in Acts 12: 12-14:

12-14 Still shaking his head, amazed, Peter went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.

She was so excited to TELL everyone that Peter was there that she couldn’t believe it! When was the last time you were so excited to tell someone about Jesus? Have you ever been excited to tell someone about Jesus? Btw, when I ask you these questions, I am asking myself the same questions.

ACCEPTANCE – Paul wrote about cultivating good relationship in Romans 14. Let’s listen to his words that have relevance for today:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

Are we accepting and welcoming of new ideas? New ways to explore being followers of Jesus? Are we willing to not just accept, but welcome the fact that the church has changed and is changing… that it always was and always will be changing?

DECISIONS – Job is not a book from the Bible that we read very much, but these three short verses seemed appropriate for today; they’re from Chapter 22:

You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
    and you will pay your vows.
28 You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you,
    and light will shine on your ways.

Are we willing to participate in making hard decisions? Decisions that threaten the status quo, decisions that are guided by God for the good of the whole faith community and not just for some?

EAGER – Are you, are we eager to pray and listen to God? Are you and we eager to enter more fully into a life of love, peace and justice?

Let’s listen to this passage from Acts 16, where Paul, on one of his journeys, encounters Lydia, a business woman:

13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Are we excited and eager about the possibilities of our time and place? Do we believe that there is meaning and joy in a life of faith? Are we willing to go beyond our comfort zones and share our faith with others?

RESPECT – Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians, writes:

12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13 esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Do you, do we have respect for each other? For ourselves? For the notion that individually we don’t have all the answers, but together, with God leading us and Jesus’s example, we can forge a new way forward?

SPIRIT – The Iona Community in Scotland uses the wild goose as an image of the Holy Spirit, a reminder that along with the image of a gentle dove, the Holy Spirit is untamed and cannot be controlled. Mark shares his account of Jesus’s baptism in the first chapter of his gospel:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[a] with you I am well pleased.”

Do you, do we have a sense that the Spirit is at work in our community? Inside the church and outside the church?

HOPE – One of my colleagues, the Rev. Dr. Ross Bartlett uses a passage from 1 Peter as part of his email signature:

Always be ready to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that is in you, but do so with gentleness and respect.

Do you, do we have a sense of hope? Not a wishy washy, pie in the sky sort of hope, but the hope that is grounded in a sense of awe and wonder? A sense of hope that puts its working clothes on and spreads hope to a hurting world?

Inspiration – To be inspired, which literally means to breath in, means to be enlivened by the breath of God that animated Adam, that gave life to Jesus and that he breathed on his disciples.

Isaiah says it in this way:

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,[a]
    a light to the nations.

Are you, are we inspired by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Are we encouraged and do we take heart from examples of people down through the ages?

Presence – The psalmist sums it up:

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.

11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Are you, are we, willing to be present to God, the teachings of Jesus, and one another? Are you, are we, willing to stick together, even in the difficult times, even when we don’t get our own way, even we disagree with each other? Are you, are we willing to be present, mind, body and spirit, time talent and treasure? If so, you might have the gift of gracious leadership!

There is a video of leadership according to geese. You can find it here.


Love & Listening

Thanks be to God for examples of leaders in our Bible, thanks be to God for those who have offered leadership here and in the wider community, thanks be to God for each of you. Amen.

Proverbs 1: 2-7
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
Acts 12: 12-14
Romans 14
Job 22: 27-28
Acts 16: 13-15
Mark 1: 9-11
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
1 Peter 3:15-16
Isaiah 42: 5-6
Isaiah 42: 5-6

Stairs Memorial United Church

July 12, 2020

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