The emotional, physical, and spiritual violence that we inflict on one other is a sign that something is amiss in our world. A study from the World Health Organization paints the terrible truth that sex workers have a heightened risk of HIV. The sex and drug industry “tear up women and use them ‘til they throw them out” as Rev. Rebecca Stevens, Executive Director of Magdalene Ministries, says. Magdalene is a recovery program in Nashville, Tenn. for women who have histories of substance abuse and prostitution. Stevens has helped countless women get off the streets and put their lives back together. Yet there are so many more in need. It is clear that something is persistently bent on the annihilation of our bodies and souls. What can we say or do?
The widow of the longtime minister of the Anglo-American congregation that housed our Korean immigrant church taught us Sunday mornings. She would open our gathering time together with this question: “What is the chief end of man?” We would all respond with the proper answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever!” we would sing-song it together not really understanding the words.
Even at 10 years old I felt the weight of centuries behind those words. Somehow it felt like the perfect answer to anything and everything. Later, when I went away to college, I would remember these words and they would be like a flickering light in those dark times of isolation and loneliness. It was a reminder that our lives are meant for so much more even if we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.
In college I began to sense a call to ministry. I felt compelled to become an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church as my own way to “glorify God” and “enjoy him forever.” Yet, the only examples in ministry I had were the typical white, male pastors and staff of para-church organizations. I felt uncertain.
It seemed the leader of any organization was expected to be strong — someone with a strong will. Strong focus. Strong vision. Strong command. Strong abilities. I didn’t feel I had the charisma of a leader who could not only inspire, but direct, move, and act decisively.
Hebrews invites us to consider an alternative vision of leadership in Christ, the High Priest. Instead of power, the writer describes Jesus’ service in terms of compassion and mercy, even citing weakness as the source of his efficacy as high priest. Even though he was a Son, “he learned obedience through what he suffered,” and we hear an echo of the familiar hymn from Philippians 2.
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