Sermon: 22nd March 2020

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Crisis of Leadership            Readings Psalm 23, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, & John 9. 1-12

St Andrew’s Scots Kirk at Lent 4

Prayer           “Lord take our wandering thoughts and guide us.

We have come to hear your word,

with your teaching now provide us.” Amen

Crisis of Leadership 

Three passages today but all leading towards one single word. It emerges from the biblical description of leadership.

So what is this keyword then?

We will arrive at that destination, but first, we need to set out on a small journey of discovery. We begin with possibly the most famous words ever written.  There are in equal measure – a song, a poem and a prayer. Part of the Hebrew bible but respected by many other religions and cultures.

Found Sheep

Our journey begins with a leadership statement ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.  In the Psalm for the day, we find that someone can guide us.  And this leader has good things in store for those who follow them.  

They guide to quiet waters, meeting our physical needs.

This ‘good’ Shepherd also directs my spiritual path, ‘He restores my soul.’   

Don’t you think it is a really good starting point when you are in a crisis if your leader is looking out for you both physically and spiritually? [PAUSE]

In the I Samuel passage we find a nation with a crisis in leadership.

One of the great gifts from the Jews is the recording of their story ‘warts and all’.  We find a nation at a difficult juncture.  Samuel has been the leader as a Judge but is told to his disappointment the people want to be like other nations and have a king.  Sam is asked to play a pivotal role in the preparation of the ideal king, who is called Saul.  This Saul is set up as a person of stature,’ “not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else”.  However, he fails badly once he puts on the crown in body, mind and spirit.  So the trustworthy old Samuel is brought back to facilitate the transition from Saul to another king, who is introduced in our second passage (1 Sam 16 vs12). He is a young David, a shepherd boy.  It is an unusual tale as the potential new king is chosen and anointed secretly while serving King Saul as his court musician. It takes several chapters to work through all the issues and you can imagine not easy for the nation nor those involved. Are there any parallels in recent Sri Lanka history? Do you something about rulers, dynasties and disputes? Do I hear regular questioning concerning who should be granted the authority to rule, all to a background of noisy commentary on their competences and weaknesses?  The life in the 10th century BCE does have some resonance with 21st century Sri Lanka.  Here too leadership is in crisis, with no functioning parliament, a canceled election and a national curfew in place. It does not feel orderly, calm or clear as it how things will unfold for this country following the challenge of the C19 virus. You can make a strong argument that we have a crisis in leadership.  [PAUSE]

Our third passage is from John’s gospel. We find Jesus in action and he is healing a blind man. Worth reading the whole of Chapter 9, but the essence is that, not everyone is happy even when a man born blind has his sight restored.

This is the man’s reflection on the healing from vs 15,

“Jesus put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man (Jesus) is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath rules.”   

Jesus’ impressive work – teaching and healing, living with integrity did challenge the religious leaders of his day.  You may have thought that they would have been delighted to applaud a new person who interpreted God’s word with authority, gathered a crowd, lived his teaching and was willing to sacrifice himself.  However, the person who lives with the most integrity is not always the most popular. Even though long term they are very reliable because they have proven themselves worthy of trust. [PAUSE]

To close some questions:

Who are you following today?

Are they leading you and I to still waters and restoring our souls.

Do they guide through dark valleys? Strengthening through their example.

 What risks are they taking on your behalf? Doesn’t Jesus the Shepherd reveal strength, depth and courage?

Has the leader you most admire and follow proved themselves to be trustworthy?

So we have ended our journey to discover one keyword from these three passages on leadership.

The keyword in leadership is the word trust.   

Trust is what is needed in the family, in the office and in government.  If you can’t trust yourself, and few of us can, then follow someone who is trustworthy.  For example, Jesus of Nazareth now on his way to Jerusalem, to suffer and lay down his life as a Good Shepherd.  His invitation has been around for the long term.  He has led through wars and famines, revolutions and disease before and will do so again.

I trust and will follow Him.

What about you?

Amen.

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