Do This In Remembrance Of Me

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron….

After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.

… If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. (John 13:3-5, 12-15, 17)

While the Eucharist rightly stands out in brilliant light, there was more going on in the Upper Room than just the special meal. If we are going to engage the spiritual practice of the Eucharist for the sake of others, we need to include the whole scene. For worship that leads to service, we need the chalice and broken bread and the towel of Jesus. The body and the blood of Jesus represent more than his death on the cross. They signify everything that made his death effectual and worthy as a sacrifice: his matchless life of love, service and obedience to his father.

Together the towel and meal show us how to participate in the spiritual practice of Eucharist so that we take on the desire, power and means to live a Christlike life. (Giving Church Another Chance, p. 142-143 – Todd Hunter)

 

Beauty As An Antidote For Worry

Listening to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount is always a challenge for me! His words, while simple, eloquent and revelatory, get right to the heart of things. Often I think to myself, I get what he’s saying but I’m not sure I can do what he’s asking.

That’s what happens to me when I read Matthew 6:25-34. Read it yourself. Jesus says six times not to worry, rather trust God like you see the birds of the air or the flowers of the field do. Our heavenly father takes care of them, are we not of more value? Won’t God care for us as he does the birds and flowers?

I parsed the Greek word “anxiousness” or “worry.” I looked up the English definitions too. The word worry basically says the same thing in both languages. Worry is un-rest in the soul; a disturbance within the soul that aggravates the conscious and the unconscious dynamics of human existence.

I think most of us already know that! In fact, if honest, most of us would even say we are intimately acquainted with worry. I’m tempted to say its epidemic in our culture today. But, considering the word and the condition more thoroughly in light of Jesus’ “don’t worry” imperatives I think it’s safe to say worry is probably more normative in the human experience than epidemic

So instead of defining worry in words, I took a look at how worry is pictured in Google images.

beth-pixFrom these, I think we’d agree it looks like worry makes it residence in the head (mind). Worry can look like mental processing or disguised as creative thinking yet it goes nowhere, just hovers. For me, I somehow think that if I worry enough it will eventually lead to something productive. But in truth, the more I worry, the more confused I get. Worry can even become painful. Ever had a stress headache?

Let me say a few words on worry:

Worry confines us…

  • to defensive strategies in order to survive
  • it trusts the illusion that we can control outcomes

Worry narrows…

  • the imagination to the domain of what we can think of or conceive
  • it looks constantly and only at what is already known in order to make sure nothing has changed or moved

Worry captivates…

  • the mind in the endless rehearsal of all the possible scenarios in order to be prepared to react to whatever life throws at us. A great human fear is to be caught off guard which comes from our desire always and in everything to be in control

IN THESE WAYS WORRY IMPRISIONS THE MIND… leaving us impoverished in ways that are both dehumanizing and destructive, forcing us to live meagerly, in survivor mode.

But…life, as God intended, is more than surviving.

Since Jesus’ six imperatives are situated in the Sermon on the Mount, the context suggests that Jesus presents to his disciples and others listening, a re-configuration of our understanding of life as we’ve always known and experienced it. Jesus births an imagination for life as God intended for us, as we come to live in the richness of the father’s goodness, companionship and blessing. Jesus invites us to exit our old ways of living and enter the kingdom of God. In this way, Jesus becomes our new Exodus!

This is why I would suggest that worry is more a symptom than a problem. It seems that Jesus is pointing to something below worry in the mind. Throughout the discourse, Jesus invites us to check our fundamental trust in God and his benevolent care of creation.

I’m going to borrow a phrase from the English poet, Samuel Coleridge and use it for my definition of trust in God. Trust in the heart of God looks likes the “willing suspension of unbelief.”

Jesus asks really good questions in this passage, questions worth wrestling with. It seems to me that we’re going to have to come to terms with a few things in three primary areas of our life:

  • Regarding food and clothing (or provision) – we’ll have to confront our relationship to work, to our bodies, and how we are defining “the good life” – is life more than the body and work? Or is this all there is?
  • Regarding life span – we’ll have to come to terms with our own morality, the limits of our own strength, and aging or illness.
  • Regarding the future – we’ll have to face our fears about the unknowns and find ways to hold the tensions of having dreams and expectations for future things while at the same time loosening our grip on everything…it’s been said the humble loosen their grip!
  • Regarding our true value – we’ll have to determine our value on earth and learn how to experience that value in relationships, occupations, and within obvious successes and failures.

Candidly, I don’t do well when someone just says to me “don’t worry.” I often feel as if I’m not understood or it sometimes comes off as a dismissive of the things that truly challenge me or that I care about. However, when Jesus says “don’t worry” he gives me a redirect by inviting me to “look at the birds and the flowers” pointing to the teachings of beauty in creation. This helps me. I have found generative help whenever I expose my mind and heart to beauty, in all its various forms.

A visitation of beauty is God’s exquisite provision that moves our lives from mere pragmatic survival or consumer-producer modes to something richer, more sustaining and ultimately more human.

Secrecy. Is it a bad thing?

Secrecy. Is it a bad thing? Doesn’t the word secrecy have undesirable if not immoral connotations? The notion of secrecy often calls to mind clandestine activities and cover-ups – like the Watergate scandal or tapping the phones of governmental leaders.

But in the context of servant leadership the practice of secrecy is born from a spiritual motivation rooted in a God-centered world-view. For would-be servant leaders, secrecy is this: in favor of the Divine Audience of One, we abstain from allowing our good deeds and qualities to be known. In secrecy, we cultivate a deep relationship with God that flourishes independent of having to manage the opinions of others by boasting of our goodness, rightness, or power. This is a key discipline in the spiritual formation of servant leaders.

I know of a man who quietly made a huge difference in one of the most intractable racial problems of the twentieth century. He did not tell a soul until it was privately coaxed out of him just before he died. When asked about keeping such an astonishing secret, he explained that he experienced freedom, joy and power in the discipline of secrecy.

We all know the unpleasant feelings associated with doing something wrong. We run a red light only to see a cop in the rearview mirror. Now filled with regret, fear, or shame, we say things not fit for print. The reverse is true too. Keeping secret our commendable behavior provides a full range of ethical power in our leadership. It brings peace and joy, contentment and satisfaction. I sometimes experience it as an inner giggle. I know something others don’t: God is working through me, and it is our secret. This inner reality brings poise that radiates to others. Thus the environment around us receives a great means of peace, joy, and confidence.

Our Character At Work, by Todd Hunter, pages 82-83

Fighting Fear with Love

Fighting Fear with Love

Most of us hate vulnerability. We see it as weakness, as being soft. And no one, we surmise, can make it in today’s marketplace if they are weak or soft. But what if vulnerability is not the path to spinelessness but the road to power?

We hate vulnerability and trusting others in ways that involve the possibility of failure. Why? Because we are self-centered. But if we can break out of this egocentric fear, we will find something fresh, better, and stunningly powerful: the transformation of our leadership. This transformation is worth the effort and has whole-life implications. As author David Benner writes, the “bondage of the self is always the enemy of genuinely self-surrendering and self-transcending love.”

If we can break out of this egocentric fear, we will find something fresh, better, and stunningly powerful.

[E]mployees respond to love. Customers are drawn to environments, products, and services marked by love. By love I don’t mean mushy platitudes but the power of caring for others. However, we can’t get there as leaders or lead our corporate culture there if we insist on me as the basic point of reference for our common work. Author David Benner states, “Ultimately, taking care of Number One takes care of no one.”

Thus, betting on love actually aligns us with the most fundamental reality of all creation: God. Love will transform the self created by years of fear-based, power-oriented, untrusting leadership, management and supervision.

 ~ Our Character at Work, by Todd Hunter, p.59