Daily Devotional – April 27, 2020

To the Church in Exile,

Please note:  Pastor Doug has also included a video version of today’s devotional. For some of you, that version may be more accessible – you can find it by clicking here.
The peace of Christ be with you. Today’s daily lectionary reading, 1 Peter 5, has some important things to say about leadership. In this COVID 19 season, we are seeing some wonderful examples of healthy leadership across our country, our state and city. But also, as I’ve commented before, we’re seeing some leadership that misses. I think, as we pray for all our leaders, it’s important to practice healthy servant leadership in our companies, churches, families, and neighborhoods. Peter can equip us.
1 Peter 5:1-8  
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. 5In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert.
Two important elements of healthy leadership emerge in this reading for me. The first is humility. Peter doesn’t have time for elders or leadership in the church who “lord it over those in their charge.”  Instead, you’re to “clothe yourselves with humility.” Part of the reason that humility is a key trait of the leader today is that so often the landscape is so different in our world that the old solutions aren’t applicable. Ron Heifetz, the leadership guru at Harvard, has for decades been talking about how leaders must admit just how much they don’t know. And we, in our companies, in the corporate world, and in non-profits, are all realizing that navigating our world must start with a confession that we just don’t know everything. Humility is key for the elders in churches and leaders in every discipline.
Leadership, it seems to me, rather than starting from some elevated podium, really begins on our knees. It starts in prayer: “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God.”  Which leads me to the second element of leadership Peter gives us in this passage: casting your anxiety upon God. Many of us are familiar with the older translation: “Cast all your cares upon Him.” This verse has been a staple of American pietism that used to turn me off. It smelled of a quick fix spirituality of dumping and eluding responsibility, sort of a Christian version of “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (Hey, we were all young, immature students of Christ at one point.) Of course, I knew nothing about this text or this important leadership principle.
I’d like to think I’ve grown up some as a leader facing my own anxieties, and in that growth have learned to live into this wisdom of casting my anxiety on God. I love the Common English Bible translation of verse, “Throw all your anxiety onto God.”  That’s the metaphor that I model in my spiritual life when my back is up against the wall and I’ve got nothing. When I’m on my knees – which I always hate doing, being honest about my lack of control and limited power, but once in this position so quick to realize it’s the best and most powerful place for me – I throw the wake-up-at-2:30-in-the-morning worry onto God, not to escape, but to place it in God’s hands. I put into God’s hands the uncertainty about outcomes or the future, so that I can focus on the task at hand. I can deal best with the problem before me if I trust God with the unknown yet worrisome future.
C.S. Lewis, in his Screwtape Letters, captures the importance of distinguishing between two very close but separate problems: the difficulty or setback itself; our fear and disquiet about outcomes and tomorrow. Screwtape is an imaginary senior devil who is coaching his bumbling nephew of a junior devil, Wormwood, on how to tempt a new Christian to abandon God, the “enemy above,” and convert to following “our father below.” At one point, Screwtape advises that Wormwood play into the fear of the unknown tomorrow that is growing in his patient: “The enemy above wants humans to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
As a leader, and you might think about your place of leadership, I want to focus on what needs doing. The worry about what will happen in tomorrow I cast onto God. Leadership requires these two essentials: embrace humility on your knees, and throw your anxieties onto God.
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our cares on you who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours: A Manual for PrayerPrayers for Springtime

Peace in Christ, 


Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11

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