Leadership is an interesting thing in communities. We often want someone to take the responsibility and to lead us. When they don’t we complain that no one is stepping up and doing their part. Yet, often, when someone does step up, we are critical of them, particularly when they are not someone we would expect to see in that role, or they don’t lead as we would expect.
This tension seems to sit between these texts. In 1 Samuel, Samuel highlights that if a King to lead them, as they request, this will mean certain sacrifices. The King will want to do things in a particular way. He (we can assume that is would be a ‘he’ in this context, though I wish it were otherwise) will expect to have a certain authority that the people respect. They will no longer have as much autonomy and this won’t always be appreciated. When Jesus returns to his family, it is not so much that the people dislike leadership insomuch as they dislike him as leader and teacher. The comment ‘He has gone out of his mind (Mark 3.21b)’ suggests that he was not leading as they would hope, nor perhaps the person they expected. Perhaps his ideas were a little bit out there for their sensibilities.
How do we hold this tension when we, as a community, acknowledge that we sometimes do need leadership? And how do we encourage leaders who are not the one that we would normally choose, particularly when they encourage us to think differently?
In my small corner of the Uniting Church right now there are all sorts of seeds springing up. It is a beautiful thing, and I am incredibly lucky. This wonderful situation is not without is challenges though. With all these shoots of new life springing up, I am never quite sure which ones to tend. There is not time to tend them all.
Should I tend the most unique?
Or the one that looks like things that have grown before?
Or the most robust, simply because it has the best chance of becoming something?
Or should I leave the robust alone, because even though it is small, it is most likely to survive on its own, in favor of the one that looks a like a lost cause?
Mostly I just find myself tending the closest one, or the one that scream the loudest.
I am not sure what the solution is, but I do know that I am grateful to be reminded in these parables that I am not alone in tending the garden of faith that I am fortunate to be currently placed in. There are those who have gone before me and planted the seeds, there are those that work alongside me to provide the sun and the rain, and there will be those who come after to find rest in the branches.
I am not sure about this psalm. I do agree that it is ‘very good and pleasant it is to live together in unity.’ I can see how the metaphor for this works with the ‘dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. In my mind I see the dew as fairy dust being sprinkled everywhere and on everyone. As a consequence, everyone is happy.
I am just not sure about the beard analogy. I have not ever had a beard so I am not a good judge, but I can’t see how oil running down your beard and robes would feel so good.
It would be sticky wouldn’t it?
It would get in all of the cracks and creases of your body and robes and be incredibly hard to wash out.
But then I remember Jesus being anointed by the unnamed woman at Bethany. I am reminded of times when I have anointed others: Babies during baptism not long after birth, all manner of people at the other end of their life, even in death and sometimes others in between in times of joy and pain. In remembering these things I realise that maybe unity is not just happiness and fairy dust at all, but connection, compassion, welcome and love? Maybe unity is about life and death, and all that lies in between? Maybe there is a tension in that- just like in the oil? Sometimes warm and sensual, sometimes sticky. But most of all everywhere, even in the cracks and creases.
I imagine that all of the people in this week’s gospel story went through a dark nights of the soul as described by the psalmist before they encountered Jesus that day. The hemorrhaging woman would have experienced many before she put all her hope in Jesus that day. I can only imagine the pain of Jairus and his family as they slowly watched his daughter slip from life.
Sadly, for many of us who go through these experiences the result is not the miracle that we see here, but more pain. More dark nights of the soul. Perhaps this was the same for the Psalmist? I think what the psalmist reminds us is that though this may be the case- that we don’t always get the miracle, what we can be assured of is that despite that we are always loved. And that through it all there is hope and the chance that maybe, just maybe, we will be amazed like the disciples that day.
Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith