Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Year B Proper 4 WED Discernment & Leadership

Year B Proper 4 WEDNESDAY, 6 June 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Discernment and Leadership”

Ps 119:49-72, Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, Galatians 2:11-21, Matthew 14:1-12

Collect: O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

Galatians 2:11-21

 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’
 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Matthew 14:1-12

At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

I want to speak today about a topic that increasingly is weighing on my thoughts. We are distracted and divided. We have to look at so many things, too many things, that we lose track of what it is we have seen and heard.

We are bombarded with information and input, and we have to slow down and filter just to get anything done.

Yesterday, there was an interview on NPR with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and in the new operating system for their phones and tablets, there will be a feature showing you how much time you waste on the device and on what apps. The people who created one of our biggest distractions is now admitting they helped create a monster.

This morning I am speaking to Discernment and Leadership, and more and more in the world we are living in these are in essence often the same thing. Discernment is choosing between the good. To say yes to one thing, it requires we say no to something else. If given a choice between a mud pie that a toddler made, and chef’s four-course meal there is no choice. No matter how much you like the toddler. If however, we are given a choice of lasagna or fettuccine alfredo we may have a tossle over what to choose. It is not always easy.

Leadership is becoming more and more, what right to do, and what wrong to not ignore. As Ecclesiastes intoned, there is a season for everything. And depending on your political persuasion, you may have have trouble with some of the things on the list. But it is true, killing and war are the worst possible choices, but it must be left as a choice when all other options are lost. Such is the burden of leadership. Such is the discernment of what to do and when to do it.

Paul is open about his confronting hypocrisy by Peter when the Circumcision Faction comes along. That is the worst name ever for a rock band, by the way. This delegation from James the Less in Jerusalem had Peter putting on airs. And Paul had to call him out. I am sure it crossed his mind if he should, but he knew what had to be done. Discernment. Leadership. You will hear this from me a lot. One of the great mentors in my life always said, “A leader does what has to be done.”

We see this in Paul here, and we see it in John the Baptizer as well. And I am pretty sure he knew what could be the cost. But being a leader, he did what he had to do, no matter the personal cost. And we still talk about it today.

And notice, the lack of discernment on Herod’s part made him make promises he was forced to keep, even when he did not want to do so.

Doing the right thing, no matter the cost. SO easy to say, but so hard to do. That is discernment. That is leadership. What to do and say. When to do or say it. That is why we pray for our leaders. We pray for our bishops, their leadership and their discernment. I covet your prayers. Lord knows we all could use them.

And before this gets too daunting, that is also why I believe we have the Holy Spirit, nudging, encouraging, supporting, convicting, so that we can truly be here in Jesus’ name.

The answer is there is a season for everything. When, however, is the question. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock