Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!!
April is an opportunity for us to take a closer look at the Passion of Christ and the mysteries and miracles around resurrection and the beyond.
We travel this year through the meditation of the suffering of Christ in a context of untold suffering of millions of people due to the war around Ukraine and issues of bad governance in several other nations. People undergo profound misery and pain for no fault of theirs but because of the profit mongering of a few (oligarchs).
The World Council of Churches came up with a powerful statement which among other things said- “We share the strong conviction that there is no legitimate way in which this armed aggression and its terrible consequences can be justified or tolerated from the perspective of our Christian faith principles, Acutely conscious of the grave risks of further escalation of the violence in Ukraine, of wider and even more destructive conflict, and of the abhorrent threat of weapons of mass destruction, we appeal for diplomacy instead of threats, dialogue instead of confrontation and exclusion, truth instead of disinformation, and for the voice of conscience – inspired by God’s will for all the people of God and God’s unique creation – to be heard.”
We join with the global community in the prayer that war would end soon, peace would be restored, the loss would be recompensed with justice wherever possible and no one would be allowed to go scot free for the atrocities against humanity. A deep social audit would happen and we would be able to strengthen our systems to an extend that something like this would not happen again in the future. As one of our parishioners reminded me- we should also ask Why a refugee from one nation is more welcome than another from a different nation. Tough questions keep emerging always.
Amidst all these, we at the Anglican Church of Freiburg is preparing for our next Annual General Meeting and the call that already went out to the congregation is to “consider being part of the joys and adventures of the Chaplaincy Council”. Even as this call lingers in the hearts and minds of all of us I thought of reflecting further. My prayer each day as we prepare to receive the new Council that the Lord has in mind has been
O Lord we thank you for all your children who led us thus far,
with grace, dignity and decorum.
As we prepare to pass on the baton;
Choose for us people of God who have a burning passion for the gospel,
A deep love for Jesus Christ and the people of God;
A strong dependence on the wisdom of God
And a willingness to invest their time for you and the cause of the kingdom,
People who, constrained by the love of Christ, cannot but be the Light.
We thank you because the Church is your body and You are the head.
We thank you because you, in your love, will choose for us the right people
Who would be your disciples sharing the excitements of ministering with you
And will lead us in the paths you want us to tread as a community of grace.
I would want to reflect on Nine Marks of Leadership that would be helpful for us to understand the call with which each of us are called.
- Living the Vulnerability of the Cross. As we meditate on the passion of Christ yet again, we are confronted with the painful prayer at Gethsemane- If it is your will take this cup away from me!! But a few moments later he reconciles to the challenge- Yet Not My Will but Yours Be Done. Jesus was always aware of the vulnerability of the cross and knew that it was inevitable for the saving of humanity. He walked the path of this vulnerability. The ultimate self-sacrifice that we see in the cross for the sake of the other is the essence of leadership. It is not about mansions and profits, about authority or power, it is about kenosis- self emptying.
- Proclaiming the Essence of the Gospel.
Even as we continue to concentrate on the cross as the means of salvation the essence of the Gospel is made manifest in the love of Christ which shouts amidst pain- ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’. Forgiveness is the essence of the gospel and is never easy. The parties of the unlawful arrest, the mockery of the justice system through a meaningless series of court proceedings, the betrayer, the one who denied and the ones who fled, the ones who slapped, teased and scrouged, the ones who shouted Crucify. Jesus was pleading and proclaiming forgiveness for all of them. When the one crucified with him begged for mercy- he was given the ultimate promise- You shall be with me in paradise. Leadership is about understanding the essence of the gospel and proclaiming it aloud to all of creation. It is about the here and now. It is also about the hereafter. It is about Repentance, Reconciliation and Rejoicing.
- Joining the Divinely Inspired Continuum.
The ministry in any congregation is a continuum. Jesus Christ is the corner stone on which the church is built. The first disciples passed on the mantle of faith to generations next and the torch of the good news has reached us thanks to those who kept it alive and passed it on. It is our responsibility to pass it down to the next generations and to those who still have not seen the light of the good news. We are also sure that the Lord would raise people of faith in the future generations who would live the gospel. This awareness of this continuum is important. We have inherited this; we have to live this and we will have to pass this on. This is also true in leadership roles. We are always thankful to those who have gone ahead of us and we are always aware of those who come after us. Leaving what we received as better to whom we hand over to is the key to prudent leadership. This understanding of the non-permanence of our roles also helps us to make way for the new and lay down our spaces when needed.
- Participating in the Making of God’s future.
Behold the Almighty in Christ is making everything new. The old has passed by and everything is becoming new. This renewing initiative of the Lord is the central focus of the making of the future of God. It is not just a myth of the other world, a better world, that we profess as the core of our faith. It is the making of heaven here and now, the influencing of the lives of others into a better space that we are engaged in. Participating in the building of the future of God is therefore the key mandate of leadership. For this one need to understand the master plan of God which would be mystical. Instead, one should at least comprehend the plan for the part each one is called to build so that whatever we do becomes part of the whole.
- Being with People in the Crossroads.
Ministry is all about being with people. Jesus was always the friend of the poor, the sinner and the ostracised. He dared to touch the leper and eat with the tax collector. He healed the sick and let the people go free from the influence of the evil one. He fed the hungry and calmed the fears of the people in the sea. His ministry mandate was made manifest in Luke 4:18-20. Bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free and announcing the liberation of the Lord. Like the man attacked by the robbers left half dead by the roadside in the narrative of the Good Samaritan there are several left in cross-roads and leadership is all about being the good Samaritan. It is also about transforming human behaviour- individual and corporate.
- Making the Word of God relevant to the Present.
One of the greatest challenges of the present day is that more and more people are signing off from God. It is chilling to note that the God thought is not exciting many people. They are not interested in the beyond. ‘Abstracts’ like God, heaven and the other world does not appeal to their scientific temper. However eloquent a person can be that is not good enough to convince a wandering soul. It is herein that living the gospel becomes imperative. People see the gospel lived in the lives of people and tastes and sees that the Lord is indeed good. Making the Word of God relevant to the present is therefore a challenging call. Leadership is living out the Word and using words only when absolutely necessary.
- Living in Love, Truth and Justice.
In a world where hatred seem to triumph over love, falsehood seem to triumph over Truth and Injustice seem to triumph over Justice leadership is a call to live in love, truth and justice. This calls for inclusion and non-discrimination, constant battle with false propaganda and against different manifestations of injustice around us. Living in Love calls to transcend the biases of judgmentalism and to permeate into areas hitherto untrodden. It calls for risks and adventures that could be costly and against the norms. Leadership therefore is risk-taking for the sake of Love and Life that is the core of the gospel that we believe, profess and proclaim.
- Being the Beacons of Hope and Peace.
Hope is the inner strength that helps one not to give up even in the pinnacle of brokenness fully aware that God is able to rebuild any broken pot. Peace is the tranquillity amidst turbulence made possible only from the understanding that the Lord of the storms is able to calm any storm. We live in a world shattered beyond comprehension. The pain and agony of the people around us and the groaning of creation is far beyond words can express. To be able to instil hope that Christ made manifest is a challenging call. Peace is a mirage in the world today. So fragile that it could fall off in a whimper and shatter. This world needs beacons of Hope and Peace. That is the call to leadership.
- Being the Welcoming and Inviting Presence of Christ.
Come to me all who are weak and heavy laden- I will give you rest. This was the inviting and welcoming call of Jesus. People came to him with different needs. For some it was physical, some spiritual and some emotional. Jesus was there attending to them. He had his own ways of questioning structures that were corrupt and calling for repentance and transformation of such structures. He urged the diciples to pray- Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Hospitality is the nature of God that should be reflected in leadership.
May I wish each one of you a meaningful meditation of the Passion of Christ and an exciting experience of the Easter joy.
Rev’d Vinod Victor
Chaplain, Anglican Church of Freiburg
on April 1, 2022