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For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at email@example.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
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Lawrence Lipton’s poem Trumpets in the Morning leans on the Jewish legend that the Satan misses something of life in heaven.
Reb Yussel heads for the synagogue as usual but on this occasion the unusual happened. His shadow ran ahead of him up the steps, shows itself on the wall and then turns into a majestic prince with garments to match and an offer of much knowledge—even knowledge of the future. Reb knows it is the proud Satan who was banished after a failed coup against God—so they say—but he treats him with respect. Yussel doesn’t want to know about the future; instead he asks the proud one who has so much knowledge:
What is it you miss
more than all else
Of heaven’s bliss?
The Satan pondered long.
Bowed down his head,
then sighed and said:
“Trumpets in the morning,”
and then was gone.
The old legend says that in his banishment, which meant he walks the earth in eternal night, Satan misses the music of a new day, the sunrise that was announced by the blowing of the trumpets in the morning.
Imagine that just as God was about to make his appearance everyone would know that another new day had come and everything would be fresh and new and adventurous and filled with life that is brimming with life—imagine at that moment the trumpets sound.
Now that would be something to miss!
In a better, lovelier world where life is brimful of life and newness a trumpet sounds the arrival of a new and wondrous day because the One who makes everything new and fresh is about to make His appearance. In such a world the soft and comforting darkness takes its leave as the trumpet calls the glorious sun to rise and so announce the appearance of the Living God.
And every Lord’s day, the day of Resurrection, the beginning of a new week, that marks the beginning of a new world, a new creation, wise congregational shepherds and ministers of the Gospel of God see to it that the congregation celebrates this ongoing newness and freshness in the presence of the Living and Returning Lord for the benefit of a tired and weary world that so desperately needs good news.
(Holy Father, we know you are too marvelous for us to fully grasp. But must we your People continue to be fed the same familiar moral exhortations, week after week after week? If it is indeed your will that your Church be the carrier of your saving gospel about your good news will you not give us teachers that will feed us truth about YOU that will shape and enable us so that with joy, assurance and brave hearts we can speak as well as do your blessed will. For the Church and for a world you love. This prayer in Jesus Christ.)
Victor Herman, in his Coming Out of the Ice, tells of a man who kept him from going insane during his first 24 hours in the Russian Gulag.
His cell (No. 39): five and a half feet wide, and ten feet long with a boarded up window at the far end and the cell door at the other. Two benches along the walls and sixteen men to the cell and closest to the door, a parasha, a round vat that served as a latrine and was emptied every ten days.
The stench was choking, silence was required and so was movement. From dawn to darkness they were forced to sit, silent and stare at a hole in the cell door through which the guards were able to watch them.
At night they lay like eggs in a carton on the cold stone floor. Every inch of space was taken and the slightest movement to ease a pain was bought at the expense of a fellow-sufferer.
Herman confessed that after only 24 hours of it he was on the edge of madness and was kept from it only by “the Elder.” The Elder—no names—sat closest to the parasha and to the door and if a guard had it in him to vent his bad temper or rage or whatever the Elder was always the first to get the beating.
This leader earned the right to make two decisions each day. One of them was to give the sign when everyone was to begin to eat. He would count sixteen bowls of soup as they came through the feeding hole in the cell door to ensure that nobody received less than his share. Twice in the night he would signal for the men to change sleeping positions so as to ease the awful agony of cramp and disability when the morning came.
I accept the fact that there are and should be people “over” us—we must have leaders, it isn’t a question of will we or won’t we; we’ll have them! We can juggle the language, change terms, substitute this word for that but we will all be “under” someone in some area of life; there’ll always be someone (or someones) who shows us the truth of things and when he/she does, in that realm we submit ourselves to them.
At its best authority compels us by persuading us that the leader has more in him/her than we have; more of the right spirit or wisdom or devotion, or whatever. They don’t compel us in the sense of coercing or making formal demands for recognition—they earn our respect and submission to their lead simply by their skill their giftedness, character and behavior. But at one point or another if we’re going to live as a community there will be “leaders”.
Leadership can be looked at in terms of how many people we can get under us but that’s the pagan kind that Jesus spoke about on the betrayal night when He spoke of leadership in terms of service. He said, “There’s either pagan authority or Mine.” So, maybe it’s not too sugary to say leadership at its best is seeing how many we can get under so as to lift them. Maybe it’s more about seeing how many we can get into to transform.
There’s something sinister (I think) in attempts to get rid of leadership (however that’s attempted) because we will always end up with leaders (call them what we may or call them nothing). They may speak quietly and with a smile, there may be more than one and they may even ask for opinions now and then but we will have leaders. The group may even “democratically vote” on occasions but there will be those that (ugly phrase but still) “call the shots.” There will always be those judged (not wickedly) not gifted to do this or that and they will happily follow the leaders & happily submit to them. (Call them what you want but they will lead and there will be followers.)
I can’t help thinking “the Elder” at the door was regarded as “the Elder” by common consent and not because he demanded recognition or because he somehow rigged the vote. He manifestly served, but “the elder” still called the shots twice a day and was obeyed without quibbling or worry about questions of “equality” in all things. (There’s something strange too in a person or a group that is pre-occupied with “I must be understood and treated as equal in all ways.” ) We will “obey” someone! Even if I’m given a turn at “calling the shots”—I’m given it by someone(s) with the authority to do it.
This entire area needs, and is worth, thinking about. I recognize that the most compelling piece of this little thing is the telling of Herman’s cell, so reflect on that a while. I’m tempted to say that those who are our best leaders are those who suffer most for us. But, yes, it’s too simple; still it’s not too simple for us to take that aspect of leadership seriously.