Summary: Leaders must lead with truth instead of deception, with grace instead of power, and with unswerving commitment to the the least and the lost.
Several things prompt this message. First and foremost, I bring this message because I know that it is crucial to teach and re-teach our church’s vision. Everyone needs to understand what we are trying to do as a church. Just saying it once or twice does not get the story told. I want to proclaim again today the challenge to refocus. It is important that we understand to what God has called us.
But there is a special reason to bring this message from this text at this time. As I worked my way through the Letter to the Hebrews, I realized that this last chapter, with its emphasis on the relationship between pastor and people, would come very close to the anniversary of my service at Takoma. Last Sunday, as some of you may know, marked the completion of thirteen years as pastor here. Even though we are not a church that celebrates anniversaries, I cannot help but reflect a little on our relationship and on where it is going. The last chapter of Hebrews and this milestone have come together in my thinking, and demand to be preached.
Paul says in one place that he was determined to know nothing among his people except Christ crucified, and that is my intention as well. The theme we are using is “We See Jesus”. Our worship, our identity, our very life together is totally dependent on who Jesus is and what He has done. My prayer is that, even while we think together about some very human things like Christian leadership, nevertheless at the center will be Christ. In all things, Christ. We see Jesus. I cannot improve on a phrase which comes, in fact, from today’s text, “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” My message is not so much about who I am or who you are as it is about who we are in Christ, to whom be honor and glory, now and forever, amen.
I suspect that most of us, when we were kids, played the game, “Follow the Leader.” You remember how it works. Very simple. One kid assumes leadership and begins to go places and do things, and all the others are expected to follow right along. The leader can make things boring and easy, or he can make them exciting and challenging. The kids who follow have to decide whether they are up to the challenge as the leader takes them through more and more places they might not ordinarily go. When I was a kid, I too played “Follow the leader.” I learned a few things. Our cues come from this source:
Hebrews 13:7-19; “Remember your leaders.”
As a child, I wanted to exercise leadership. I wanted to do something that would involve others and get them doing what I wanted them to do. I had some examples to follow.
Larry told me about stamp collecting, and I decided to try it. Larry told me that the way you build your collection is to trade duplicates with other collectors. If he had two of the 12 cent Zachary Taylor presidential stamps, he’d be glad to let me have one of them if I had something he wanted, like maybe a copy of the 13 cent Millard Fillmore in the same series. That seemed fair, and so Larry and I plunged happily into sorting out our duplicates and trading, stamp for stamp. After a while, Larry proposed another rule. When he had an air mail stamp I wanted, Larry said, “Look, this air mail stamp is twice the size of the regular stamps. So you have to give me two of yours if you want one of these.” That didn’t seem just right; but Larry said it was right. Larry was older than I, Larry was really smart, and so that’s what we did for the rest of the afternoon. I got one, he got two; I got two, he got four; I got four, he got eight. Until my little pile of stamps looked rather puny next to his, and we quit.
Well, I don’t need to tell you what I found out later, that the value of postage stamps has nothing to do with their size. I followed a leader and got caught, because this leader was not honest. This leader was deceptive. This leader did not base his leadership on truth.
But deceptive leadership breeds deceptive leadership. So I tried a deception of my own. Desperate to get somebody to follow me in something, one day at school I turned to the kid on my right and the kid on my left and whispered, “When Mrs. Ferree’s back is turned, let’s holler out real loud.” They gave me a look, but both of them smiled, as if to say, “Good idea.” Two minutes later Mrs. Ferree turned to write something on the chalkboard. I looked to my right, I looked to my left, and went, “Hooahh”. Mrs. Ferree jumped, most of the other kids jumped, the kids to my right and my left sat silently and snickered softly as our teacher snarled, “Who did that?” And without waiting for even a decent interval, she towered over me and asked, “Was that you?!”.