Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lead Humbly -- An Alternative Lection for Proper 18 (David Ackerman)


The idea of a humble leader seems like an oxymoron.  We hear a lot about servant leadership, and pastors are urged to take up that calling, looking to Jesus as our model, but really it's not all that easy to accomplish this.  When people are looking to you for guidance it can easily lead to hubris.  And yet, this is a calling to which we've been called -- and only by grace are we able to accomplish such a calling.  The call to lead humbly is the theme of David Ackerman's alternative lectionary for September 8th (Proper 18).  If you're a preacher or reader of scripture, perhaps this would be a worthy alternative to the regular lectionary readings.

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Proper 18


September 8, 2013
“Lead Humbly”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:65-72 NRSV
One:  You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.
Many:  Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
One:  Before I was humbled, I went astray, but now I keep your word.
Many:  You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
One:  The arrogant smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
Many:  Their hearts are fat and gross, but I delight in your law.
One:  It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes.
Many:  The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Gathering Prayer:  Life has a way of humbling us, God, and we know all too well that we are only human.  Help us not to forget our shared human situation, as we come together before you this day.  Amen.
Confession:  We have been arrogant, God, and have insisted on our own ways.  We have not taken into account the thoughts and feelings of others, nor have we taken you into our hearts as we should.  We know that we need to change, God, so forgive us and lead us.  Teach us to follow you, so that might lose ourselves in service to you.  Amen.
Assurance:  God knows that we are fragile humans who err and stray far more than we should.  Yet the Holy One welcomes us back into the heavenly family time and time again.  Let us be thankful for the assurance that we have that God gives us grace that is above and beyond anything that we might ever expect.  Amen.
Scriptures:  Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-17 – “Hananiah’s Demise”
Romans 14:13-23 – “No Stumbling Block”
John 7:45-52 – “No Prophet from Galilee”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
What’s the proof that a prophet is telling the truth?
In Jeremiah 28, do you think Jeremiah is treasonous?  What would you have thought if you lived in Israel during this time?
The author of Psalm 119 writes, “It is good for me that I was humbled” (v 71).  Have you ever had an experience where you could say something like that?
Have you ever felt like someone put a stumbling block in the way of your faith because of something they said or did?  Have you ever put a stumbling block in front of others?  Do you think Romans 14 calls us to “walk on eggshells”, lest we offend someone because of what we eat or drink?  Can we be genuine and real with others while being sensitive to their needs?  If these principles come into conflict with each other, which one should win?
Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, defends Jesus in John 7.  What do you make of the comment, “Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee” (v 52)?
How can we lead humbly, without being arrogant on the one hand or timid on the other?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  In your infinite grace, God, you have given us marvelous opportunities to lead with humility and love.  Thank you for entrusting us with this gift.  Lead us, so that we might be faithful stewards of this trust.  Amen.
Benediction:  Let us go now and lead others in a spirit of humble grace as we work together to help usher in the realm of God in this world.  Amen.

1 comment:

John McCauslin said...

Spoke with an Evangelical pastor yesterday and left the conversation deeply troubled. He chanted the mantra that we are saved by faith alone. I commented that we are saved by the grace of God alone. His response was that yes and it's that Grace which gives rise to the faith within us. He wouldn't allow the notion of grace to take precidence over our personal faith.

It seemed to me that he was clinging to something he thought we had control over - our faith - and de-emphasizing that which we don't have control over - Grace. When I suggested that recognition of the ultimacy of Grace in the plan of salvation coupled with the fact that it is indisputably God's will that all people should be saved (even though that may not happen) and that this opened up the possibility of salvation being available to more people he dismissed the idea as "easy religion" or "easy faith."

And for him faith alone was not sufficient, but it had to include belief in the right doctrines. So faith alone was not sufficient, but only the right kind of faith. When I pointed out that the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 didn't spell out any doctrinal requirements for inclusion in the new movement he dismissed this as easy faith