Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
In all three scriptures it’s clear that we require a new way of teaching, a new attitude.
We love to knock the self-appointed, the one with the big ego. ‘Who does he think he is?’ We are great at levelling those who might stick their heads above the parapet. ‘Too big for his boots’ is a common response. So how are we to hear a prophetic voice today? Could it be that we have become a little too cynical for our own good, ready to chop anyone who comes with new ideas or a new approach?
Leadership isn’t easy when every turn can be analysed and discussed. It’s sometimes said that in leadership of churches, like any other organisation, they first idolise you, then they criticise you, then they scandalise you. What is it that makes a difference?
Today’s gospel helps us see that it is a great sense of authority that enables Jesus to speak out effectively. Authority isn’t something you can learn. Authority comes from a solid sense of who and what you are, and Jesus illustrated this to perfection in the way he teaches and the way in which he engages with those around him in the synagogue.
The most effective authority comes when a leader is able to speak with gentleness and sensitivity. We are all accustomed to bullies who get short-term wins, but ultimately it is the one who ‘walks the walk’ not just ‘talks the talk’ who is the convincing and authoritative leader. So knowing our stuff is crucial, but being able to be alongside people as you share it is what makes a difference.
The art of being present to other people is one of the most demanding of Christian leadership actions. In a world of social media and 24-hour news, it’s easy to get caught up with ‘what next’ and always be rushing onto the future agenda. But authentic and authoritative leadership lives principally in the now as well as having an eye for tomorrow.
Jesus also shows that authoritative leadership can demand action, as he illustrates by casting out devils. But people do need an indication that that their anger and indifference will be calmly called to ‘come out’. It’s a call to end game playing.
We welcome Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, who will soon be taking up her new job as Chief Executive of Christian Aid. May we take special care to support Amanda by regularly praying for her, especially at this time of transition. We pray especially that she will be blessed with authority, gentleness, sensitivity and wisdom as she takes on this leadership. We pray that all who serve Christian Aid will be blessed and able to be alongside our sisters and brothers in poverty, so that lives can be transformed and be lived in all its fullness.
God of all the earth,
where people suffer because of the actions
of an authority motivated by ego,
money and self-interest,
by your mercy intervene
and raise up leaders anointed by you
with an authority that heals
that speaks truth to power
that silences lies
that is confident in you
that is faithful and just.
For the sake of your earth,
and all its people,
We are grateful to Bob Fyffe, General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland for providing the weekly pointers for January.
Give thanks for all of the Christian Aid Week organisers, kingdom builders from all walks of life and Christian traditions. Pray that they feel energised, encouraged and supported as they step out in mission for the world’s poorest people.
Pray that the focus of Christian Aid Week 2018 – internally displaced people in Haiti – will capture the hearts and minds of people across Britain and Ireland. Pray that they will be moved to respond with compassion and generosity.
Published on 28 January 2018