September 23, 2008

Lectionary Leanings

I am SO excited for this week's texts. I play a MMORPG (Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game) and I so love the idea of Kenosis that I named my first character that.

Kenosis you ask? Check out the scriptures especially the Christ Hymn for Philippians.

Kenosis translated into English means emptying... self-giving... humility... pouring out

It is the embodiment of Christ into our human form - giving up his power, giving up his seat at the right hand of God, giving up his divinity in some respects in order to become one of us.

It is also the actions of Christ over and over again in his life and in his death. Giving up his power and status over and over to reach out to those who were hurting and sick and were chained by their sin. It is the action of Christ giving up his very life on the cross.

I'm really intrigued by how kenosis affects our views of leadership. A distant family member knew I was in ministry and he and his father are both pastors. We got to talking and they came to learn that I was THE pastor of my church. And not only were they amazed, but they also wanted to know if I called myself the "senior pastor." Senior pastor? I'm the only pastor was my response. It's not a question of being the one in charge, of being above everyone else - for me, leadership has always been about servanthood, about humility, about kenosis.

In Powers and Submissions, Sarah Coakley argues that we should come to see the incarnation and the cross as acts of “power-in-vulnerability.” These narratives remind us of our ultimate dependence upon one another and upon God while at the same time reminding us that letting go and opening up to the divine is what enables divine power to work in our midst. This power comes through dependence and relationship, through communion rather than a do-it-alone mentality. The practice of discernment exemplifies this power. Or, as Coakley describes it, “we can only be properly ‘empowered’ here if we cease to set the agenda, if we ‘make space’ for God to be God.”

In his article on postmodern leadership, Leonard Hjalmarson writes:
The leadership style that once dominated our culture is becoming passé. Instead of the Lone Ranger, we have Frodo: the Clint Eastwoods and Sylvester Stallones are replaced by ordinary men. Frodo, Aragorn and Neo (the Matrix) are self-questioning types who rely on those around them for strength, clarity and purpose. Indeed, while they have a sense of the need and a willingness to sacrifice themselves, they may not even know the first step on the journey.

He is describing a form of leadership that takes seriously both the interdependence of the Christian community as well as the idea of kenosis. Authority is shared and the agenda of the formal or ordained pastor is not the sole determinant of the direction of the congregation. At various times, Hjalmarson returns to the metaphor of storytelling and describes the pastor’s role as the narrator who weaves all of the various stories together, much like the mediating interpreter for Nicholas Lash. This vision of leadership is crucial if we are to emphasize the ways in which the Holy Spirit dwells in the community of believers – the body of Christ.

In many ways, I believe that is what kenosis is all about in the church... emptying ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can work through us. Embodying the mind of Christ means to set aside what we are entitled to, what we deserve, what is owed to us, and instead discerning the will of God and living our lives in obedience to it. And it is about coming together as the church - not a pastor leading as a lone ranger, but as the priesthood of all believers.

p.s. i wish i knew who did this watercolor - another blogger had it on their site, with no credits.

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