How Can a Leader Be Humble? [Sermon]

There’s a somewhat famous movie synopsis taken from a television listing:

(8-10p.m., TCM) Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.


It’s accurate, but not how we usually understand the movie.

This was written in 1998 by Rick Polito about The Wizard of Oz.

Let’s go to God in prayer.
God of wisdom, may the words that I speak, and the ways they are received by each of our hearts and minds, help us to continue to grow into the people, and the church, that you have dreamed us to be.
Amen.

Our reading today tells a familiar story:

Jesus tells his disciples to steal a young donkey and Jesus rides it into Jerusalem.

Okay, so that’s not how we usually read it.
And in fact, Jesus tells the disciples to say “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”
And there are some who say Jesus must have set this up in advance, that he had made a reservation.

But that would be adding to the text.

Whatever happened, they were allowed to take it, so it isn’t really stealing anymore than if the house one is in is dropped by a tornado onto someone is really killing someone.

And Jesus rides into Jerusalem triumphantly.

A point has been made that when a Roman leader would come into the city, he would be on a great horse and surrounded by soldiers, a show of force.

And that Jesus, riding on a donkey’s colt, is a mockery of such a entrance.
Or that Jesus, riding on a donkey’s colt, is a humble entrance.
Or maybe even that Jesus, riding on a donkey’s colt, shows Jesus wasn’t rich enough for the more showy entrance.

What does it mean to be humble?

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy we see the leaders of men and elves
put on their armor and lead their people into battle.

Those who are kings, and those who would be kings, fight alongside their soldiers.

Is that what we look for in a leader? The strength and courage to fight?

Well, if you’re familiar with the story, there’s Denethor II, steward of Gondor. Granted, as steward, he was not permitted to fight, but he still ruled in the absence of the King, and sent soldiers to fight. And of course Sauron sent others into battle.

In the modern world, it is rare to see world leaders in battle.

In the United Kingdom the princes will usually serve, but not the king or queen.

And in the USA we have had former generals as president,
but they do not fight after they ascend to the presidency.

And in many companies the Chief Executive Officer would never stoop so low as to work in customer service or in cleaning the space.

But Jesus doesn’t just command others to do his bidding. He is with his disciples on the streets, in the marketplaces, and in homes. Because of this, Jesus is as vulnerable as his disciples,
perhaps more so because he’s beginning to get a reputation.

Jesus isn’t commanding troops into traditional battle: he’s not trying to kill or capture enemies.

Jesus is doing something much more subversive: Turning the hearts of his enemies

Force is usually met by force.
If you’ve even tried to demand a child do something, only to be met with defiance, you know what I mean.

People are resistant to demands.

But when a leader is involved in the work, when a leader walks beside others,
that is a softer, more persuasive form of influence.

The leader who merely orders others about may be more concerned with their own power, while the leader who works beside others is more concerned with empowering people.

And for someone who has been repeatedly ruled, or bossed around, by others, this more humble form of leadership can be much more powerful.

Someone who rules merely by fear of retribution isn’t really a leader at all. There’s a risk that such a person may merely be a n oppressor. But someone who is willing to be a part of the work, that is the sign of a true leader.

Humility isn’t groveling. Humility is seeing one’s self as no greater, and no smaller, than one is.

If we’re going to follow Jesus, we ought to follow his example.

We’re probably not going to be very persuasive by putting ourselves above others, as more holy and righteous than they are.

That will probably be met with a lot of resistance.

We’re better off just being ourselves, and loving others even if they have put themselves above us.

So my challenge to us this week is to be aware of how we interact with others:
Do we make ourselves out to be better?
Do we make ourselves out to be worse?
Or do we humbly present ourselves as we are?

Amen.


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