In the Edwards' household we have a tradition of setting up the family Christmas tree, and pronouncing it the “best Christmas we ever had.” Sometimes that is the truth, and other times it is only tradition. Offering this observation year after year I believe is more of a statement, that our family, our present state, our spiritual journey is well. This is truly the best Christmas we have ever had, because we have the gift of knowing Jesus Christ. Somehow this Christianized symbol, invokes contemplation and gratitude, even peace and serenity. Because even though the world is bitter and brittle for a few days I can sit with food, family, and Christ, and remember all is really well.
Over the Christmas break I had the opportunity to catch up on reading. Now, I know this is an acquired taste, but I did some more reading into the English and Scottish Reformations. Many generations before us, people convoluted their faith with their national and ethnic identities, and not only was the cost horrible, the Gospel was also disgraced. Yet there were some leaders, both Protestant and Catholic who spoke into the miasma and came out the other side never losing sight of Christ. We really do need to ask the Holy Spirit to guard and direct even our best motives and desires, lest good motives fall prey to ego and anger. Maybe it honors God most and gives fruit to the Gospel, to simple speak of and for Christ, absent of any need to win an argument.
During the break I also reflected on Philip Yancey’s memoir: “Where the Light Fell.” How desperately we need reminding of God’s grace and mercy, lest we become what we say we abhor. I have also begun to read “Letters to a Young Pastor,” which was a Christmas gift from my son. It is a compendium of letters that the late Eugene Peterson wrote to his pastor son Eric. Like so much of what Peterson wrote, one reads, then thinks, and then reads a little bit more! And then you realize some conviction starts creeping into your own pastoral heart.
In particular, Peterson in letter #3 is brave enough to address our skewed concept of leadership, borrowed from the world of MBA training versus spiritual formation. I believe Peterson’s point is we have a deficit of healthy leadership because we are lacking in “followship”. I cannot agree more that encompassing the call to lead, is the call to follow Christ. Some years past, a rather secular person, accused me of being a pastor because that is how I “made my living.” His point was, I was obligated to be a Christian because it was the same as my livelihood. No pastorate, no Christian. I couldn’t make my explanation understandable, that if I was not a pastor, I would still be a Christ follower, and being a pastor was part of my being a Christ follower. In his secular eyes all he saw was profession and compensation, and I hope I did not abet his muddled perception.
As the new year has begun, and my calendar fills again, I know this will be another year of questions. Key questions in my world will revolve around finding new pastors, searching for new leaders. In our grasping to understand a future we did not envision well, Christian communities will search for leaders who will clarify and bring direction to this new world. I hope leadership will not be neglected with followship, or we forget the soul’s state precedes public actions and words.
I wish everyday in my near future would be the “best day I ever had.” I know that will not be true. But I do know that Christ is the best Shepherd who I can every follow. We only lead, because we are led.
In Jesus name, Dale
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