Strong and Courageous: Vacancy in the Chariot

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 41:37-44 and I Samuel 18:1-16

One of my all time favorite movies is “Remember the Titans.” The movie is based on a true story and set on the threshold of integration in the school system.  In a town where there was once the white high school and the black high school there is now the high school. Folks were going to have to come together – students, teachers, parents, coaches – folks that were once set apart due to their pigment were now all together.

And at first tensions were high.

“Remember the Titans” subjects the high school’s football team and how they found unity in their diversity, which led them to a championship football season. Their unity brought together the school as well as the community – their unity made what was once broken newly whole.

But in order for this to be possible there had to be dialogue and compromise. Students, coaches, and parents that had very rigid understandings of how things should be and what should be done and who should be in charge had an immediate decision to make: adapt and join the dialogue to make the needed compromises or be very unhappy…because that’s just the way it was. There was no going back. There was only going forward.

This scenario was met with resistance at first, but slowly the community came around and rallied behind their players. Foes became friends and increasingly acknowledged the incredible gifts one another brought to the team.

And they won – not just the game or the season.  They won the fullness of life that God has to offer when folks put aside those things that seek to separate and embrace those things that unite us as one people before our God.

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In our Scripture passages this week we read two examples of leadership.  In the case of Pharaoh and Joseph in the Genesis passage we read of adaptations that led to dialogue that led to compromises that led to everyone succeeding.  In the case of Saul and David in the I Samuel passage we read of stubbornness and jealousy.

Which leadership scenario would you prefer?

I think I’d rather hang out in Pharaoh’s boardroom…

Pharaoh made room for and welcomed other persons to share in the leadership of the kingdom and it was to his benefit.  With Joseph at his side Egypt was at it’s best.  Joseph knew that Pharaoh was pharaoh, but the king didn’t wear that on his sleeve 24/7.  His leadership was a model for other leaders and he wanted those other leaders to engage those practices, not be paralyzed on the sidelines.

This is an important model for our own leadership styles no matter the context or venue that we engage them.  Whether at home, in the classroom, in the Sanctuary, in the coffee shop, on the production line, or the soccer field our leadership style should inspire and invite other leaders to partner with us.  In this way we will share the responsibility of leadership and get more work done than a single person could ever manage alone.

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The young men of T.C. Williams High School led that community in partnered leadership.  They found unity in diversity and altered the face of their community.  If God’s people scattered across the globe engaged this same sort of practice, imagine the Kingdom work that God would bring about with us as helpmates in the kingdom…

Just imagine…now let’s make it reality.

Prayer “A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never ending soul to save, and fit it for the sky.  To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!”*  Amen.

* “A Charge to Keep I Have,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 413.

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Mayhem and Foolishness: Recalculating

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 9:1-20

I grew up in a household where my mother always left a light on if she knew we were coming home after dark.  That way we could unlock the door, make our way safely into house, and unload whatever we were carrying without stepping on a feline friend or catching our feet on a piece of furniture.

Thanks Mom!  I appreciated that!

Sadly, I have yet to apply that practice to my own life.  If I arrive home and it’s already dark the front room of my house – which is so pleasant and inviting during daytime hours – becomes a void of doom!  I have to walk to the center of the house to find a light to turn on because our house was built in the 1950’s and there isn’t a central ceiling fixture in the front room.  Some days I traverse this expanse with ease.  Other days…it’s a wonder I am not caught up in traction in a local hospital with a broken arm, leg, or neck!

Everything changes when I come in contact with a light source.  I know with certainty the where the furniture is, where our four-legged children are, what my relation is to everything else.  I don’t have to guess.  I don’t have to wonder.

I know.

Until the time of Saul’s conversion he presented himself as one walking with sure and certain footing, but in reality he was stumbling and fumbling through life like me in my living room.  And then he experienced and came into contact with the light – the light of Christ.  He was illuminated.  His surroundings were illuminated.  He saw – truly saw.

God revealing Godself in a visible way is known in theological parlance as a theophany.  As we read Scripture we see many instances of theophany:

1. God walking with Adam and Eve in Eden

2. Jacob wrestling with God

3. Moses and the Burning Bush

4. The Incarnation of Christ

5. Jesus’ resurrection appearances

When God shows up in each of these stories, God shows up in a very dramatic way!  But that’s not God’s sole modus operandi.  We read in I Kings 19 that the prophet Elijah experienced all sorts of drama – a whirlwind, earthquake, and fire!  But God wasn’t found in any of these.  God was found in the still, small voice.

The learnings this offers:

1. Our God is uncontainable.  Our God can show up and reveal Godself however God determines.  When we attempt to limit how God reveals Godself or determine the time when God reveals Godself, we too narrowly focus our own vision and may miss what God is doing right before our eyes.

2. Theophanies, encounters with God, how persons come into relationship with God are not one-size-fits-all!  Yes, you may have a very dramatic story along the lines of Saul or Moses where God took your breath away…or knocked the breath out of you.  “I was headed for destruction.  God intervened in a mighty way and saved my life!”  Or your experience may be more intimate and measured and steady.  “I was raised in the faith; this is the life I have always known and I am thankful for it.”  Neither experience is better than the other.  Neither experience is more valid than the other.  Both are expressions of how our God meets us, heals us, claims us, transforms us.

God invites each and everyone of us into the light so that we can cease stumbling through life.  In God’s light there is purpose and direction.  In God’s light we can share in the clear vision of Saul, the vision that Christ gave to us in the Greatest Commandment and Great Commission.  In God’s light we can identify the moment of our initial theophany and then train our eyes to seek other places that God is revealing Godself in our lives to lead us further.

Prayer: “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”*  Amen.

* “Open My Eyes, That I May See,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 454.