A Case for the "Leader as Joke"

There are many ways to be a leader in the Church. Scripture points out that some are called to be Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Evangelist, Pastor (Ephesians 4). The body of Christ needs all the parts in order to dance. One of the ways of being leader that seemed to be ideal in the early church was that as the leader as joke. Here are some example stories of a joke of a leader.'

ONCE when Friar Juniper was going to Rome, where the fame of his sanctity was already noised abroad, many Romans, for their great devotion, went forth to meet him? and, seeing so many folk coming, Friar Juniper bethought him to turn their devotion to scorn and derision. There were there two little boys who were playing at see-saw, that is to say they had laid one log across another log, and each of them sat at his end, and thus they went up and down. Friar Juniper went and lifted one of those boys off the log and got up there himself, and began to see-saw. Meanwhile the people came up and marvelled (sic) to see Friar Juniper playing at see-saw; nevertheless, they saluted him with great devotion and waited until he should have finished his game of see-saw, to the end that they might thereafter attend him honourably (sic) to the convent. And Friar Juniper cared but little either for their salutation and reverence or for their waiting, but took great pains with his see-sawing. And, after they had thus waited a long time, some of them began to grow weary and to say: "What fool is this?" Some, knowing the ways of the man, increased in devotion toward him; nevertheless, in the end, they all went away and left Friar Juniper on the see-saw, and, when they were all gone, Friar Juniper remained full of consolation because he had seen some who made a mock of him. So he gat (sic) him up and entered Rome with all meekness and humility, and came to the convent of the minor friars. - The Little Flowers of the Glorious Messer St. Francis and of His Friars: Done Into English
THEOPHILUS of holy memory, Bishop of Alexandria, journeyed to Scete, and the brethren coming together said to Abbot Pambo: Say a word or two to the Bishop, that his soul may be edified in this place. The elder replied: If he is not edified by my silence, there is no hope that he will be edified by my words. - The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions) by Thomas Merton
On one occasion a certain judge wished to pay a visit to the abbot Sisois. Some of the clergy went beforehand, and said to him, "Father, prepare yourself, for the judge has heard of your works and your piety, and is coming to visit you. He desires also to receive your benediction." Sisois said, "I shall do as you desire. I shall prepare myself for his visit." Then he clad himself in his best garments, took bread and cheese in his hands, and seating himself with outstretched feet at the door of his cell, began to eat. When the judge with his retinue arrived and saw him, he said, "Is this the famous anchorite of whom I heard so much?" So, despising Sisois, he departed. - The Wisdom of The Desert by James O. Hannay

These are just a few stories of church leaders who were seen as jokes. They see-sawed all day long. They refused to speak to people of power or if they did speak to these potential powerful allies, they looked a fool by eating with legs spread all over the floor! These leaders knew that if people were drawn to them, then they would be the center of the movement and not Christ. These "joke leaders" often put themselves into positions that diminished(!) their standing in order to elevate Christ. 

There is a need for all kinds of leaders in the Church, but perhaps in the age of the celebrity pastor and measuring success by the number of twitter followers or pew sitters, we need to reclaim the pastor leader as joke.

How You Know Someone Does Not Trust You

Trust is the lifeblood of relationships. This is obvious in personal relationships but there are many types of relationships. When you pass someone on a two way road, there is trust that each will stay in their lane. Without trust in the other then there can be great damage and hurt. Again, I say, trust is the lifeblood of relationships. 

We know when we don't trust another person. You can try to put it into words and sometimes you can articulate why you don't trust someone. Maybe they wronged you in some way and broke trust. Maybe they just look like someone you don't trust (this is sometimes the implicit bias that leads to misjudgments and prejudice). But for many of us, we know when we don't trust another person. 

The question is how do we know someone does not trust you? We can all put on a nice face and be pleasant with one another, so it is easy to miss that someone does not trust you. However, here is one way to discover someone does not trust you: The other person does not give the most generous interpretation of your actions. 

If you find yourself in a conversation and the other person is not giving you the most generous interpretation of your actions and words, then maybe the conversation needs to stop being about the issue but pivot to trust. Talk about how to rebuild trust between yourselves. The conversation about trust is paramount because even if you resolve the specific issue, unless trust is present, there will be another issue in the near future. 

The "thing" is rarely the "thing". More often there is a "Thing" behind the "thing." Many of the conflicts in the world come from a trust vacuum. Broken relationships, broken churches, broken nations and broken systems result a hemoraging of the lifebloood of trust. 

Western Christians are all heretics!

Lets face it, every Christian is a heretic in some way.

Perhaps you think that "Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as Son of God" by the descent of the Spirit on him. Heretic! That is called adoptionism.

Perhaps you think Jesus was created by God. Heretic! That is called Arianism.

Think Jesus had a divine side and a separate human side? You heretical Nestorianist!

Think that humans have a divine soul that is trapped in a body? Gnostic!  

Think icons are idols to be destroyed? Iconoclasm was deemed heretical by Nicea II in 787.

Ever talk about the Trinity is like water in that it can be three things (solid, liquid or gas) but is still one thing? Modalism

Think the trinity is like an egg where there are three different parts to the whole? I ought to trump you up on charges of Partialism!

I could go on. We are all heretics by someone elses (past or present) understanding of what is orthodox.

So before you or I begin to argue and condemn a fellow Christ follower we view as unorthodox or heretical or holds views that are "counter to the word of God", slow down and breath and perhaps you too will see that we all are heretical in some form or fashion but that does not mean they are evil/bad/horrible/jerks who desire nothing more than to destroy the church and blaspheme against God. 

It could just be that everyone is trying the best they can to describe the indescribable. 

Originally published August 25 2014

Treating the Bible as Idol rather than Icon?

My wife bought me an icon of Elijah sitting and being fed by God through the delivery system of ravens. It has been with me now for over a month and I have worked to integrate it into my prayer life. When I have shown it to people the questions immediately come up:

What do the Greek words at the top of the icon mean? Is it significant that his robe and the water are the same color or that the tree in the bottom right corner has a branch broken off? What

These are not very interesting questions. Looking at this icon and asking questions about what can be seen is missing what the icon is pointing to. This icon, like all icons point to the unseen. For instance, this icon points the one who is praying to a deep truth about patience and waiting and trust. You cannot measure these things, but we can trust in them. 

What makes an icon different from an idol is that the idol is dedicated to point to itself. The idol claims all that is powerful and meaningful is contained in the idol itself. We need not look beyond the idol to find "meaning". Idols can only point to themselves, while icons point to that which is beyond.

The difference between icons and idols is relevant when discussing our relationship with the Bible. There are many Christians who get tripped up with what the authority of the Bible really means and treat the Bible as an idol. Meaning that the Bible is the only place that God ever has or ever will speak. Using words like inerrant and infallible are attempts to elevate scripture but in reality it only lowers scripture to dead words on a page. The Bible is not an idol, it is more an icon that points us to the divine love that calls all things into being. 

The first step in moving away from idolizing the Bible is to stop asking what does the Bible say and ask what does the Bible point us to? 

Now we are talking icon.