Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

One of Seventy

Preached from the Pulpit of Good Shepherd Church, July 7, 2013:

This morning’s Gospel isn’t about leaders.  It’s about leadership. It’s about you because it is about equality, which is something this country may finally get around to making a reality for all of us.  We need only keep moving in the right direction with courageous steps.  The path will lead us to the Kingdom, which, as we heard, is near.

We can’t brush aside the fact that Society is hierarchical and has been for centuries.  We look to and follow leaders, sometimes willing to be led, sometimes wanting to lead.  Most of the time, I have a strong desire to turn it all on its head.   Fortunately, I have Jesus as a role model on how to do that properly.  You and I, my friends, members of the flock, are among the seventy that Jesus sent then and now.

I work as a legal secretary and have for thirty-one years.  Only of late have I realized that the work I contribute is just as important to the firm as that of the attorneys, and this is after years in the secular corporate world where the organizational chart is a holy icon – all eyes look upwards to the little rectangle at the very top, the one all alone, and the further down one goes, the more rectangles, the more names and the more likely one is to be lost in the collection of departments and titles; worker ants in canyons of cubicles decorated with pictures of our children and holidays, interoffice memoranda.  Home Sweet Cubicle for eight to ten hours a day.   That organizational chart couldn’t exist without everyone and their contributions, their work.  I accepted all this, and so did many others; we walked carefully past the hallowed corner offices, or, when we passed the town’s parish priest, nodded reverently and tried to look holy.

But. . . . the people in those offices – the people wearing the collars, they were, and still are, no different from me.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing us that.

Jesus of Nazareth, in his own remarkable way, shows us how it’s supposed to be done; he tosses everything upside down and gives us a revolutionary model.  By his sending out of the Seventy, he is telling the young church that all have a part in leadership, all are called to be witnesses to the Kingdom of Heaven, all are called and with whatever gifts given them, to be clarions for a new way of thinking and living, those in the Board Room and those in cubicles, the palaces and the cottages, the pews and pulpits.

The Seventy were commissioned just as the Apostles, given specific instructions, especially the urgency of their mission and staying focused.  This mission is a precursor to the activity of our church communities today.  We are all laborers who deserve to be paid.  We can bring in the harvest.  All of us must share in preparing the way of God’s kingdom.

Is this way beyond your comfort zone?  Are you thinking, “Yes, but thinking I’m equal to the CEO, will get me fired, wouldn’t it?”  It doesn’t have to be.   Why can’t you think that you are just as important and just as loved in God’s realm?  I’m not advocating a hostile takeover.  I’m advocating living a life of the Gospel of Christ – loving God, recognizing the gifts in everyone, respecting and loving, helping, and doing your best to help others do the same. Remember what Francis of Assisi said.  “Go out into the world and preach the Gospel of Christ.  And if you must, use words.”

Our actions in showing how and what the Kingdom of Heaven is like speak volumes.  They can be as simple as a saying ‘good morning’ to someone or spectacular, like saving people from what’s left of a burning airplane.  If you’re concerned that what you have to offer isn’t spectacular or perfect, or holy, consider this: your right action, whatever it might be, is enough for God.  God gives you unconditional love and you have elected to share that wealth.  A model of this new paradigm was shown this past week in the midst of the transit strike, of all places.  People who usually wait quietly in line and keep to themselves with ear buds plugged in or eyes glued to a Smartphone screen at the Transbay Terminal or at local bus stops, queuing up in a neat and orderly fashion were still getting in line, but they were showing the BART refugees where certain lines were, pointing across the vast concrete continent at Folsom and Howard to islands marked by the letters of the alphabet, offering exact change to people no different than them just wanting to get home, explaining with gentle smiles and words that no, you can’t use a BART ticket in the bus fare boxes and then asking, “How much do you need?”  The BART riders looked around in bewilderment at the roped off aisles like the lines for an amusement park ride and stepped into place, started to relax when the big, green, air-conditioned buses rolled up and people started moving in a swift pace, pausing only to swipe a transit card or drop money in the fare box.  Pregnant women gave up seats for people over 65 or those with mobility problems, with young mothers with children.  Rows of seats were taken out for people in wheelchairs and those who gave up their seats got back in line to wait for the next bus into the City or home.  Those fortunate enough to claim seats offered to hold the belongings of those standing up for the less than comfortable journey across the bridge.

How is this declaring that the Kingdom is near?  This isn’t going from town to town declaring the peace of God, healing the sick, casting out demons.  It is an example of how we should be in the Kingdom.

I’m not advocating anarchy.  We need leaders, we need to follow sometimes.  But we also are called at times to accept the mission and gather the flock, and show how it’s supposed to be done.  You have certainly shown me how it’s done – this incredible fellowship we share each week in this space – and allow me to reciprocate with my own special gifts.  Christ calls us to proclaim the Kingdom is near.  It is.  It is all around us.  Look and you will recognize it.  I ask you to continue what you’re doing and find new and interesting means of spreading the Gospel to those who may not have heard it or seek it.  I will be with you, a member of the Modern Seventy, following, leading, and if I must, I will use words.

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