Cat Chased Mouse

Cat chased Mouse

Through the asparagus patch,

past the peas,

behind the bee balm bushes.

Great fun for Cat; not so much for Mouse.


Mouse found hole, beneath the house.

Too small for Cat,

too deep to reach with claw,

safe at last.

Frustrated Cat; smirksome Mouse.


Cat settled in on his haunches.

“Take your time, Mouse

You have to come out eventually

And when you do,

I’ll be right here.”

Smirking Cat; Fretsome Mouse.


Mouse is safe within her tunnel.

But safe does not feed the hunger.

Food is out there.

Where Cat awaits.

Mouse emerges; Cat pounces. Mouse is lunch.


Mouse is safe within her tunnel, but a shortage of patience will do her in. if she can hole up there longer than Cat can wait, she will escape.


Something of the same thing happens between the Coronavirus and us. Social isolation, masks and such protect us from infection. Carried on long enough, by a large enough percentage of us, and the viral infection chain will die out and we can emerge safely. Lose our patience and re-emerge too soon, and all that went before was for nothing.


Stay home, stay away from other people as much as you can, wear a mask in public, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

Prayer Retreat Memories

Carrying Hopes to Holy Ground
On Prayer Retreat
November 5—7, 2004

Kissed babies and lovers ‘bye’ and ventured off—
To a place called Holy Ground.
To see if God would be in this place, perceptible.
To listen for the whisper of God’s heart-call,
“come, my beloved; rest in me and be renewed.”

Slept on pillows softer than stones, and waited for the dream.
Opened our hearts and hopes
To see the doorway into heaven—
To hear the angels sing.

Waited with our parched and hungry souls,
Waited for the Bread of Life,
Waited for the Living Water,
Thirsted to hear, “come to me, all who thirst, and I will satisfy.”

Prayed a night. A day. A night… and then the dawn
To signal the end of interlude;
And worship.
To hear again the words of life.
To offer prayers of closing—offer thankful prayers:
For healing.
For peace.
For clarity of tomorrow’s destination.
Thankful prayers for the Holy Presence
perceived, received, in-breathed.

Silence broken. In the awkward hush, back to the familiar…
And yet, not completely back.
Still carrying holy ground; holy silence; holy presence
in our stilled hearts.
Healed. Hopeful. Renewed. Restored. Re-born.

-Genesis 28:10-22

America’s Original Sin

“Slavery is America’s Original Sin.” – Jim Wallis, Sojourners’ magazine
Today is June 19th. On this date in 1865,  the last group of slaves were officially informed of the Emancipation proclamation Lincoln had executed a year and a half earlier. It has come to symbolize the official end of slavery in America. People of Color have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866. It deserves to be a national holiday, recognizing an important step in the maturing of this nation.

The chattel slavery of Africans has been a part of the story of this continent for four hundred years. As the colonies chafed under British rule and moved toward declaring independence, slavery was core to that discussion. There were strong abolition voices in the debate, especially from the northern colonies, but in the deep south, the plantation system of huge farms growing commodities for export was not economically viable without slave labor. Moral and religious objections to slavery were muffled under the pressure of massive profits. In an attempt to mollify the southern colonies and  induce them to join the revolution, slavery was accepted; a deal to allow slavery to continue for the sake of expediency.

That deal with the devil of slavery did not silence the abolition voices. Nearly a century later, the issue came to a head, and southern states rebelled against the nation. The rhetoric from rebellious states was that this was an issue of “States’ Rights” but the only right these states ever cared about was the right for one person to keep another person as property. Schools in the south taught, maybe still teach, a very different version of this story; a false narrative that glorifies rebellion against the nation of the United States, and virtually ignores the fact that this war ended in the surrender of the rebels and the ratification of Union of all the states.

The end of slavery corrected a sinful error on the part of the original framers; its satisfaction deserves to be celebrated as a national holiday by every citizen because it has more impact than the events celebrated by every other national holiday with the possible exception of Independence Day itself.

Half a century after the defeat of the rebellion of the southern states, white supremacist forces began erecting statues and monuments to honor the leaders of the rebellion. The statues were symbols openly intended to intimidate people of color, reminders of a white majority who held power and intended to keep all people of color from claiming any share of that influence in their communities. If you take the effort to read the accounts from that era, there will be no doubt that these monuments are intended to be racist, white supremacist symbols, threats of violence against people of color.

If you are white and grew up in the south, you have been indoctrinated into a narrative that denies these truths and pretends these monuments are about honoring history. That is an absolute lie. They intend to honor slavery and rebellion; a rebellion which failed. If you are white and grew up in the Midwest, you may not have had the experience of enough racial diversity to understand how the legacy of slavery continues to play out in other areas. If you are a person of color, you have experienced the threats of violence, the continuing animosity of white supremacy all your lives. Enter the halls of legislatures or drive down the main streets of any southern town and you are forced under the shadows of these symbols of racial violence and glorification of slavery. If you are a person of color, you know exactly why these symbols of oppression should be removed from public glorification.

We are one hundred and fifty-five years past the point when the demolition of slavery should be celebrated as a national holiday. Slavery is an unmitigated evil which is a part of our national shame. Celebrate the victory over this moral evil on Juneteenth. Tear down the symbols that attempt to glorify slavery and rebellion. Confine those symbols to museums so that generations to come will learn about how evil is perpetuated. Perhaps our great-grandchildren will be spared the repeating violence by one race over another.

Celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday commemorating all of us being released from the evils of slavery; and resolve that all traces of racism will be rooted out and scrubbed from the American culture forever.

When it all becomes too much to bear

The Good News is the social isolation we have been suffering through for almost three months has been effective in slowing the COVID virus pandemic. It has still been bad enough, but without the isolation efforts, it would have been fourteen times worse. That is good.

The bad news is, this pandemic is not over; the virus is still around. In some places, cases are rising rapidly, experiencing a second spike after the loosening of restrictions on the Memorial Day weekend. But after nearly three months, we are feeling the stress of the isolation efforts. The enforced family time is increasing domestic abuse; the economic damage has been huge for some families, unemployment has soared to near 20%, and has caused the country to enter a recession as of February.

Anxiety in the community adds to individual stress. How do we measure the cumulative impact of the endless news cycles flooding us with images of COVID pandemic destruction, then with the repeated videos of police brutality and racism? The pressure of being isolated from others, not allowed to visit family and friends in nursing homes, of economic pressure, the strain of the pandemic and the social unrest is taking its toll.
Some of us entered into the pandemic with a full load of stress already—job, mental health, physical health, family dysfunction, etc. our plates were already overflowing with problems. Add fears of catching the disease or giving it to an older loved one, the stress of losing a job, and being stuck inside for months now, and then the protests, was too much for an already overburdened psyche. Some are breaking.

For some of us, the stresses mount until we reach our limit and we have more than we can carry. We break from the pain. When we have reached that limit and break, something has to happen to remove the stress or remove ourselves from it. For some, that break means resorting to drugs, self-destructive behavior. For others, when the limit is reached, the only answer we can see is to remove ourselves from the unbearable pain. Suicide is the last coping strategy we have.

Isolation makes depression and hopelessness more of a threat to do self-harm.
Access to mental health crisis workers helps, but many of these response units are inactive due to the pandemic.

Mental health inpatient treatment is absolutely lifesaving for some patients on the edge, but mental health, especially in Iowa, has been grossly underfunded. Before this current pandemic season there was a critical shortage of mental health hospital beds; the pandemic has increased need substantially.

What can you do to protect yourself from falling victim of suicide?
Remember that you are a beloved child of God and that God never abandons us, not matter what happens.
Regular exercise. Walking is the absolute best- it is rhythmic, can be tailored to your own level of fitness, requires no special equipment or training. Three to four times a week at least; daily to your level of fitness is fine.
Keep a routine. Meal time, bedtime, routine. Stay busy. Sitting in the couch glued to Facebook amplifies depression and isolation.
Keep in touch. Use social media, your phone, email, etc. reach out to friends, relatives, talk to people. just because you are physically isolated does not mean you have to be completely alone.
Moderate the use of alcohol or other drugs.
Reach out for help when depressed. The “Black Dog” of depression tells us no one can help, no one cares. That is a deadly lie. If you have thoughts of self-harm, call for help. Now.
Lower the Lethality. If you are having ongoing depression, consider asking a friend to keep your weapons for a time. Clean your house of firearms, knives, etc. Reduce the amount of medications in your home to only what you will use in a few days’ time. Ask a friend to keep the rest for you safely and refill as needed.

What can you do right now, as a Pastor, as a friend, to reduce the danger of suicide in your congregation and among your friends?
Pray. Trust God. For many ministries, you and I are the hands and heart and hugs of God; but God remains steadfastly in love with all creation. Prayer is to be accompanied by our actions, but we begin with prayer. Pray for our own strength, and also pray for our fellow church members, friends, family, and neighbors. Know to the core of your soul that God’s love does not desert you, no matter how depressed and hopeless you may feel. In deepest distress, we seek to feel God’s loving presence, and it comes.
Stay in touch. We can’t visit in person, but phones, email, social media all offer options for keeping in contact. Use them all.
Organize. If your church isn’t already actively organized to keep in touch with ALL of its members, start that right now. By whatever means, sort your members into groups of five to eight families. Designate one or two elders or leaders to contact every one of these groups regularly.
Encourage your members to contact each other at least once a week.
o When you identify an individual feeling particularly stressed or depressed, focus more of your attention on that one who needs the extra attention.
o Ask if they are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
o Get help if the answer is ‘yes’ get your friend to professional help right away. Call 911.

There are provisions in most states to protect people who are a danger to themselves. Your friend may be mad at your for calling the police, but at least they will be alive to be mad at you.
Train Yourself “Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training,” an evidence based, online interactive training. The initial basic course is $20.
God’s steadfast love brought about all of creation. God’s steadfast love for humanity is revealed in the incarnation of Christ Jesus, who loved us enough to die for us. God’s love continues just as strongly now. Because of God’s love for you, choose life. Because of God’s love for your neighbor, be the helper who just might save another life from suicide.

The Church Deployed

One of the unexpected blessings of our current situation is to underscore how WE are the Church, not the building. Even though we are not meeting in person for worship and most meetings have gone online, the work of the Church is not diminished.
Zion Church is as active and busy as ever. We are meeting with each other to plan and support each other; just not in person. We are learning new words and new techniques, like Zoom and Live Stream. There are some elements of these online meetings that are lacking, but we are overcoming the impediments. We are still worshiping, by live streaming our services. And we are finding that our live streamed audience is much larger than we would ever see in person in the pews. We know that we are reaching out to people who would not be able to attend in person. We are fulfilling part of our mission as Church by proclaiming the Good News of Christ as broadly as possible. We have worshipers from across the US, and even into other countries. This is wonderful!
Your Zion staff are as busy as ever. We are finding that it takes even more time to plan a Live Stream worship than the in-person events; there are new hurdles for us to achieve. We are still sending out newsletters and emails (like this one), bulletins for worship, and as much additional devotional material as we can find and share. We are working as hard or harder than we were before this time of social isolation.
Zion’s expenses have not diminished much, if at all. Our utility bill might be slightly smaller due to not having Sunday morning crowds, but the difference is tiny. All our staff continue to work their regular hours; and staff account for a large portion of our budget expenses.
Most of you have continued your regular giving; thank you. You are bringing your tithes to the Church office by mail or in person, you are making excellent use of our Website PayPal donation system, and you are continuing to use the Automated Giving option. Thank you! Because of your steadfast stewardship, Zion’s work is continuing without a stumble.
Many of you have also been very generous in designated gifts to the Food Pantry and our Love Fund. Because of your generosity, we were able to increase our gifts of food to each family who came in May. And, you have given us enough extra to be able to give an increased amount of food to families in June, as well. Your love for God is being expressed in the way you love your neighbors.
Thank you, all of you who are continuing to support the work of Zion Church. If you have been a regular giver and have let your giving slip due to not being in worship, will you consider restarting your giving? Some of you have been experiencing reduced or eliminated incomes during this time, and we do not want you to suffer financially to support Zion, but if you can give, please give as you are able. If you have never been a supporter of Zion’s regular budget, would you consider giving an undesignated gift at this time? The funds we receive designated for Love Fund and Food Pantry are used 100% for those purposes; no administrative or staff costs are taken from those gifts. That feels like the most right thing to do, but it does mean other givers support the overhead and staff costs of those programs. As you are able, and as you feel led, please consider how you may contribute.
At this time, I cannot make any guess as to how long it will be before we are able to gather in person again for worship. I am eager for that day, as I am sure you are also, but there is danger in reconvening too soon. The concerted efforts of the entire community are needed to break the chain of infections and quell this pandemic. It is not easy work, it is not work whose effectiveness is easy to document, but it is almost all we have to resist the virus at this time.
Thank you again for all the ways you are continuing to BE the Church as a part of Zion UCC. Know that you are lifted up in thankful prayer regularly. We also yearn for your prayers—for staff, for the continuing work of Zion Church, and for all those front line workers who are taking care of us, and seeing that we have all we need. May God keep them all safe.
Until we are able to meet again in person, God’s blessings be upon you.
Grace and peace,

Resiliency Remembers

Coping strategies for dealing with deep grief

1. We acknowledge the loss out loud, identify, name, and feel the emotions.
As we grow and mature, we learn new coping strategies. Our repertoire of coping strategies is like a “possibles bag” we carry around with us. When a crisis occurs, we dig around in the bag and come out with the most appropriate coping strategy. The more strategies we have developed, the more ability we will have to successfully cope with whatever the new stressor might be. When we have tried everything else, and every other strategy we had has failed, at the very bottom of the bag is denial. If we can’t cope with a situation at all, we will simply deny its existence. This is the first coping strategy we learn for how to deal with not getting what we need. It’s why little babies turn their heads away from unpleasant stimuli. Denial of reality does not make the reality go away; it only signals that we lack any other strategy to cope with the issue. Denial almost never makes things better; only more complicated and messy.

The very act of speaking the unpleasantness out loud has enormous power. Identifying what we have lost; speaking aloud how much the loss hurts, putting names to our feelings, and using those names out loud to describe what we are feeling is an effective and healthy way to begin coping with our grief.

2. We remind ourselves of past challenges we have successfully overcome
The Hebrew Scriptures spend significant time remembering and rehearsing God’s mighty acts of the past; remembering past events when we, (or others) have faced adverse times and God has seen us through. The eleventh Chapter of Hebrews features a drumbeat of rehearsing the mighty acts of God and how a litany of people responded by faith. By faith Abel, by faith Enoch, by faith Noah, and Abraham, and Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Each of these names evoke for us memories of struggle and perseverance, of faithful people gathering up their faith in God and responding to events by faith. Each of these names connect us to a story of how God intervened and led people through overwhelming struggles.

We as individuals can bring forth our own litany of challenges in our own lives when we felt as if we were about to be overwhelmed, but we made it through.

This congregation (Zion-Burlington) has stories about critical moments when there were financial challenges, when there were fears about the future. As a congregation made up of German immigrants, Zion continued to conduct worship in German for decades, maintaining emotional connections to the homeland. When World Wars against Germany came along, German speaking congregations were thrust into conflict with other Americans due to emotions fueled by the stress of the war. Zion adapted and overcame the challenges.

Our history of past successes overcoming challenges assures us that we have the emotional and spiritual resources to overcome this present challenge of an epidemic.
There are few if any people alive who remember the 1918 Influenza epidemic, but the world has faced pandemics before. There are lessons to learn from the 1918 flu pandemic; how communities mitigated the death toll, and what happened when other communities reopened too soon and set off second and third waves of sickness.

That 1918 pandemic taught us valuable lessons. Those who study public health and epidemiology have spent years learning those lessons. They are a priceless trove of wisdom about how to respond to this time, and of the dangers when politicians fail to take appropriate decisions.

3. Semper Gumby. Remember Gumby? He was a doll-star in a Claymation kid’s program that started in the 1960’s. Growing out of the TV show, the dolls (Action toys?) became a huge hit. The doll was made out of some kind of clay, rubber, plastic, or some such. You could bend it, stretch it all out of shape, nothing could harm Gumby. No matter how out of shape he was bent, he always came out OK.

One of the Disaster groups I volunteered in trained us that no situation will ever go as planned. Change was not only inevitable; it would be continuous and constant. The trainers emphasized to us that we needed to be always flexible in our plan and response, because everything would be constantly changing. Be always flexible was their teaching point. So that group adopted a motto to remind us: “Semper Gumby.” Always flexible.

Almost all of us can manage some level of change. What gets us is when the amount and rate of change come at us faster than we can adapt. When we cling too closely to one set of conditions, we risk breaking down when those conditions change. In the end, remaining flexible as changes come is a powerful coping strategy. Semper Gumby.

4. We create new rituals. Rituals inform our emotions when words are insufficient. They are very important and mostly under-appreciated. The familiar routines of getting dressed for work in the morning and the special routines of dressing for Worship on Sunday morning become their own kind of daily life rituals. The Sunday rituals of greeting long-time friends, inhaling that sense of God’s presence as we enter the well-known sanctuary, sitting in our favorite spot in the sanctuary, the familiar sounds and sights and smells that make it so easy to move into an attitude of worship. We have had to set aside most of those for now.

For now, worship is happening on our living room couch, moderated through a computer screen. The familiar rituals now need to be replaced with new rituals which will signal our spirits to settle down and enter worship mode. Maybe that new ritual will involve lighting a special candle. Maybe, when it is time for worship, you will drink your coffee from a particular cup. Some of you will use dressing as part of your worship ritual. You may be in your home all alone, but you will put on your “Sunday best” as if you were coming to church. You are deliberately creating new rituals that let you know it is worship time.

5. At the end of the day, we know that God is our source of strength wherever we are. God is our now, our past, and our future moment when the storms will have passed and the sun will shine once again. We are children of God, beloved beyond all telling by the One who created us, redeemed us through Christ, and sustains us through the Holy Spirit, no matter what happens.

Church has never been about the building. WE are the church.

Building the sanctuary of Zion Church began in 1864. It continues to be a beautiful place to worship. Many of us find it eases us into a worshipful attitude as soon as we step inside. Those soaring ceilings and sturdy trusses, the painted escutcheons on ceiling panels, the stained glass showering us with light of every color make an excellent place to contemplate the awesome love of God and to get ourselves into worship mode.

The interior has changed multiple times over the years. At one point, the floor was even raised to make the lower level more usable. The chancel and the organ have seen several designs. Beginning soon after Memorial Day, construction will begin on another renovation of the chancel area and a major renovation/ upgrade of the pipe organ.

But we all know that the building, beautiful as it is, is not “The Church.” We are the church. The Church exists in the life and spirit of its people. And in times like these, when we are prevented from congregating in this beautiful building, we are no less the Church. Almost everything we do as Church is continuing, because being Church is not dependent on gathering in this space at some designated hour.

You are continuing to be Church, even while you are keeping yourselves isolated, protecting yourselves and the larger community and doing your part to break the spread of the epidemic. You are reaching out through virtual means: texting, calling, emailing, using social media to care for one another, to share burdens and joys with others, to tell the story of God’s steadfast love that never fails; not on the cross, and certainly not in the face of a viral pandemic.

You are continuing to be the Church during these most unusual times. You are using the enforced solitude to pray more, study more, think more about how to live a life that “Becomes the Gospel.” (If you have heard me talk about baptism, you know I use that word “become” in both its meanings: 1) a status you grow into, and 2) a condition attractive to others).

Some of us are getting itchy to resume meeting together; we are eager to “get back to normal.” Now is the time when it is most important that we remain patient. Coming back together too soon will re-ignite the pandemic. There have been instances in history when the second wave of the epidemic was more deadly than the first wave. If not for ourselves, we keep our patience for the sake of our more fragile friends and neighbors. It won’t always be this way. And just to keep in mind, “Normal” is really only a setting on the dryer.

It will not always be this way. There will come a time when it is once again appropriate to resume meeting together, to share a hug, to sit together in one space as we worship God together. That day will come; not soon enough for some of us, but it will be here in time.

Until then, we continue to Be the Body of Christ in the world we inhabit. We find ways to connect with others, we exploit the enforced isolation for the purpose of strengthening our connection with the Divine, and we keep on praying for and supporting the community called Zion Church; who love us and whom we love as visual reflections of God’s unending love and grace.

If you need something from the Church office, please reach out. Call, email, text, or find us on social media. How can we help? What creative new idea have you had that will improve our ways of Being Church?

Grace and peace,

The “Why” Question

Why is there suffering? Why do viruses and bacteria make us sick, even cause some of us to die? How do we reconcile our belief in a loving God who cares personally for each one of us with the reality of illness and suffering?

This is one of the fundamental questions humans have been asking since the first human formed the first thought. If God is all loving and all-powerful, why do we suffer? In the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Job struggles with this question in a stark, unromantic way. Job seeks an answer from God, and is met with only silence time after time.

When God’s response does come, it is just as puzzling as ever. Part of God’s answer is that we lack the scope of understanding to comprehend the entire question. Our field of vision is too short, too narrow, too limited by time and our own self-perception. The satisfying portion of God’s answer to Job is that even when we do not understand what is happening, God does not abandon us.

When the Angel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah, the angel says the child will be known as Immanuel, which means, “God is With Us.”

That, ultimately, is our strength and hope. No matter what happens, God is with us. Our faith does not promise that as followers of God we will never face any difficulties; our faith promises that no matter what the difficulty, God will be with us through it all.

The infection and mortality numbers of this pandemic are frightening. Here in the United States, we may be near a peak soon; if we continue keeping ourselves isolated and taking as many precautions as we can to protect ourselves from infection, we may begin to see the pandemic wane over the next month or so. It might be too soon to be certain about that.

But no matter what happens, God is still with us. The sustaining force of God’s Holy Spirit remains near to us as we call for the Spirit’s support and strength.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

-2nd Corinthians 4:7-9

Preaching in Hades

Holy Saturday
In the noisy metal shop, you can’t even hear yourself scream. All the air in the building is filled with sound, so loud, so busy. There are screeching fans blowing gales of fresh air through the building, grinding machines evoking screams from metal being shaved down, the dragon’s roar of an open furnace melting iron. As if it were impossible for anything to be louder, over the top of that the warning horns blast when huge cauldrons of molten metal are swung through the air. Everything in the entire building vibrates with sound until you can feel the noise shaking your innards.

Then, just when you have become inured to it all, one more great screeching horn blast signals the end of the day’s work. In quick succession, all the machines, fans, furnaces, lathes are turned off. Every noisemaker is silenced because the end of work has been reached.

You stand there rebounding against the silence. Suddenly, the silence feels as palpable as the noise had been. It is as if you had been leaning against the hurricane’s force and now it has been quieted you feel the absence. For a few moments, the quiet feels unnatural. What shall we do now with all this emptiness?

After the busy-ness of Lent and the unrelenting pace of Holy Week reaching its heart-breaking climax in Good Friday’s bloody cross, Holy Saturday leaves us in an awkward silence. What now? Jesus had been executed; his followers terrified into hiding. It was as if the whole world went silent, not quite knowing what to do.

In those hours between utter defeat on Friday’s cross and total victory over death at Easter Sunday’s sunrise, where is Jesus?

Into the waiting, the questioning, this one enigmatic verse in 1st Peter (1 Peter 3:19) hinting at those in-between hours and reaffirming for us the nature of God.

The verse suggests that even in death, Jesus is not focused on himself but instead spends those hours preaching to those who have died. Since for these hours before resurrection he is among the dead, he considers it opportunity to proclaim God’s love, to continue the ministries he conducted while alive, offering hope and promise that God’s steadfast love knows no limits, not even the gates of death can silence his message.

Yes. That resonates with me. Yes, this is the Jesus I know. Even death will not silence his message. Even among the dead, Jesus does not abandon his mission to save the entire cosmos and every soul in it.

Not even death removes us from the love of God and the hope we are given through Christ. The Apostle Paul echoed this thought to the Church in Rome:

“I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, not any height nor depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).

In the silence of Holy Saturday, in the midst of this awkward time of waiting, be assured that God’s love is never silenced. May you find in the silence of pandemic social isolation the quiet space to hear more clearly God’s still speaking voice, whispering your name, proclaiming never-ending love for you, calling you beloved child of God.
Until the sunrise, may you be held in quiet peace while you wait.

Servant Leadership

John 13:1-17

Today is Maundy Thursday. Most Christians will celebrate the Lord’s Supper, remembering that last communal meal Jesus hosted before his betrayal, arrest, and death by torture. This year, Zion will commemorate this event virtually. You will join us online via Facebook Live Streaming. You will bring your own food and drink, and we will eat together, separately.

Only a tiny fraction of Christians will reenact another event from that night as portrayed in John’s Gospel. That would be when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. That makes most of us far too uncomfortable.

What Jesus did by washing the feet of his disciples was to demonstrate that leadership is about service, not being served.

Other than the Bible, if there is one book that has guided my learning about leadership, it is “The Servant Leader” by James A. Autry. © 2001, Three Rivers Press. NY. No matter who you are, or what your job is, you can learn from this approach. Autry lays out six things he believes to be core. Leadership, he says:
1. Is not about controlling people, it is about caring for people
2. Is not about being boss; it is about being present for people and building a community
3. Is not about holding on to territory, but about letting go of ego
4. Is less concerned with pep talks and more concerned with creating a space in which people can do good work, find meaning in their work, and bring their spirits to work
5. Is largely a matter of paying attention. Like life.
6. Requires love.

The Servant Leader” by James A. Autry. You need to read this book alongside John’s Gospel, Chapter 13. See the story of the “Last Supper” evening through this lens. See what kind of leader Jesus was. Be that kind of leader yourself.

I checked just this morning. Your local bookseller can get you this as an eBook for $13.99 today. (here in Burlington, it’s Burlington by the Book: ).

We who call ourselves Christians implicitly claim that we are trying to live our own lives after the example of Jesus. This book can help you do just that. Be that kind of leader: spontaneous, self-effacing, the servant leader.

Forget pointing fingers at people who sin differently than you. Forget about blaming others. If you want to be a true Christian, lay aside your self-obsessed ego, tie the servant’s towel around your waist, get down on your knees, and serve others in the name of the love of God.