Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 3:1-7, 14-16
On our third full day in Israel our group was scheduled to travel north. Our guide, Mike, mentioned there was a great possibility for the presence of accumulations of frozen water where we were headed…so naturally I layered up with my clothing.
And wore sandals. You can take the girl out of Florida…
I knew as long as I started out warm that I would stay warm throughout the day; therefore, coffee was next on my list. At our particular hotel – and at most hotels throughout Israel – the coffee cups are tiny and the queue anticipating coffee deep and wide. So instead of filling one cup, I decided to fill three. Yes. Three. All for me.
Andrew and our friend, Winnie, think all my coffees very amusing. And Bishop Carter was so kind to lend a hand in lifting my third cup.
“Are all of those for you, Sarah?” “Yes….”
“Well, you will have quite the day ahead of you.”
Indeed I did…because this was the day I decided to headstand on a cliff of Mount Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
The Bishop may have been slightly more impressed by this headstand than my three cups of coffee…but only slightly.
I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to travel to Israel with Bishop Carter, Andrew, and 33 others from the Florida Conference. It was an incredible journey of study, worship, friendship and discovery in the homeland of our faith. There was much to learn about culture, faith, tradition, and hope during our trip – not only of the places we visited but also of our fellow travelers. We travelled as a group of people with very specific roles and very specific labels – pastors, pastors’ spouses, conference staff, and bishop – but at our heart, we are all people. We are all God’s children. As we continued on our trip it was not that we forgot the roles that we serve, but we remembered and brought forward our shared humanness and kinship as sisters and brothers in Christ.
I think part of our human nature is to put people up on pedestals; I know that I have done and continue to do it! We put people up on pedestals that we revere and trust, people that we aspire ourselves to be. While this is kind and has good intentions, it is not sustainable for the person on the pedestal or for the person that put the other there. We are human. We are fallible. We stumble. We fail. We let one another down. These lapses chip into the pedestal until it crumbles…and if we so attach our faith and hope to that person being on a pedestal, our faith and hope are in jeopardy of crumbling, too.
In our Scripture for this week we read about the leadership of the Early Church – leadership that was not plucked from pedestals but raised up out of the faithful. Leaders came from the people; they knew well the people’s joys and struggles because the leaders shared in those same joys and struggles. Leaders were named as such because they covenanted to be their sisters’ and brothers’ keeper. They did not want to be lord or king because their Lord and King was Jesus.
Leaders were not asked to be perfect; they were not asked to perform on pedestals. Rather, leaders were asked to model and lead in faithfulness. Leaders were asked to learn from their humanness as well as from their kin and then interpret those lessons for the health, sustainability, and growing maturity of the Body of Christ.
When I met with Bishop Carter prior to my ordination that was the lesson he shared with me, as my leader and as my brother in Christ. He encouraged me to be myself and to trust God in using my humanness, my relationship with others, my fallibility, and my faithfulness to not lead me to a life on a pedestal but to lead me in life with others, to lead me in life with Christ.
Bishop Carter picking up my third coffee cup, laughing with me, cautiously eyeing my headstand, as well as many other acts of leading and caring while in Israel and throughout my ministry remind me of this lesson. I am grateful for his leadership and friendship. I am grateful to lead and be in relationship with all those I serve in and beyond the Tuskawilla Family. Together I know that we are bringing joy to God as the God’s Kingdom strengthens in our community.
Prayer: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.”* Amen.
*”The Church’s One Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 545.