Scripture for this week:
1 Samuel 8.4-11,16-20; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1; Mark 3.20-35
It would have been all too convenient to read the words of warning of Samuel (about the risks of appointing an earthly king) to the people of Israel during a week when the Spanish civil government demonstrated that modern rulers are just as likely to fall prey to the prophetic advice – although with a demonstration that there are now consequences for such actions. However, sometimes it is a good idea to sit back and reflect before charging into judgement.
In a more measured moment, we might pause to reflect upon attitudes towards leadership, and the way in which our desire to be in control puts us at odds with the desire for security, which is one of the reasons why people want to choose kings or other rulers.
God has persistently demonstrated both the willingness and ability to care for humanity, even though the people of Israel by Samuel’s time wanted a more tangible leader. First, God simply cared for people, and encouraged them to hear and respond to God’s will and warnings. Then, God sent Jesus, who modelled a kind of leadership rather at odds with conventional wisdom; a human leader who did not abuse power, but rather encouraged people to practise self-control.
The Church has, in many ways, stepped forward to accept this responsibility – to be Christ’s family in this world. The only difficulty with pursuing Jesus’ model of behaviour is that, as he demonstrated, people might think that we are possessed, or out of our minds. However, perhaps being possessed by God might be preferable to being possessed by the possessions that we crave to own. Being out of our minds might lead us to be in the mind of God – which might not be so bad, for us, or for the world around us.
And that mind leads the Christian body to be less corporate and more compassionate; to shift our priorities in the direction of nurturing care, to create a community of caring brothers and sisters, mothers and even fathers (whom Jesus does not mention).
We live in a world which would have been almost unimaginable to the contemporaries of Jesus. We have moved well away from the era of the king (or queen) as absolute ruler. Yet we don’t seem to have quite left the era of the consequences of having rulers who succumb to all that Samuel predicted.
The words of Jesus stretch across the centuries to encourage us to allow ourselves to be possessed – by God’s loving care and steadfast love. To be the brothers and sisters of Christ we need to allow ourselves to be possessed by God’s Spirit, even if it leads us to be regarded by some as crazy, and then to follow that possession in calling leaders – and calling them to account!