The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for  All Saints’, Reformation, and Communion Sunday  November 2, 2014, and the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost.

Our readings this morning contrast two very different styles of leadership.   

Our Hebrew Scriptures text brings us into contact with the ancient Israelites as they anticipate crossing over the river Jordan into the Promised Land.  It’s a bookend kind of story putting closure to the community’s long history of wandering in the wilderness, the crossing over of the Red Sea, and the movement to a new day and a new era.

Here, we meet Joshua as he faces his first real test as a strong and courageous leader.  Having assumed the mantle of leadership authority from Moses, Joshua’s task is to organize the people to safely cross over the River Jordan.  Upheld by God’s steadfast, abiding, and trustworthy presence in the midst of the community’s journey, the people and the ark of the covenant are safely carried over.

As you listen, consider how this story about Joshua and his first experience of being a “strong, upfront, organizational hero-type” leader undergirded by God’s presence might inform your own experience of leadership or of one of your personal “saints”. 

A reading from Chapter 3, the book of Joshua, verses 7-17, “Joshua leads the people across the River Jordan”  ….Insert the reading here….

Our responsive Psalm, “Taste and see that God is good” reminds us that our relationship with God involves all of our senses. We begin with the refrain found at VU p. 761 …..insert the psalm here….

Our gospel reading provides a radically different understanding of leadership.  Here, Jesus challenges his listeners with a model of leadership focussed more on hospitality and servanthood than on rigorous religious practices.   Jesus’ teachings here are anything but meek and mild.  Given that the story is set in the context of escalating conflict between Jesus and those ascribed with the tasks of religious and community leadership, this should come as no surprise!  Listen again to how unsettling and threatening Jesus’ scrutiny and challenges to those gathered together might have sounded as he tells them that “all who are exalted will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted”.  

Where in your own life or the life of one of your saints has your understanding and experience of leadership in faithful community has been strengthened or changed as a result of such scrutiny or challenge?

 A reading from the 23rd chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, verses 1-12.  “The greatest one will be the servant.”

….insert the reading here…

The Word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God, amen.