Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!
- Psalm 70:1
Psalm 70 shows up during the daily lectionary readings for Holy Week. There’s a lot about it that is particularly poignant during this Holy time.
And there’s also a lot about it that gives us insight into the kind of leader we have in Jesus. We talk a good deal about what kind of leader our church needs in the 21st century, and Jesus, as well as the Psalmist, shows us perhaps the last kind of leader we’d expect.
Not a deal-maker or power-broker.
Not the kind we find in our business books or government spheres.
But instead one who is called a criminal.
One who stretches out his arms in vulnerability and apparent failure.
One who prays for deliverance.
“O God deliver me.”
What is the most poignant part of that?
Is it imagining the words coming out of Jesus' lips as he prays in the garden that the cup might pass from him?
Is it the stark reminder that as he prayed he had already been betrayed, knew he was going to be denied, and knew how vulnerable he was to the violence that was about to consume him?
Or is it the fact that the crucifixion has been for many of us so hard to wrap our heads around that we've spent endless hours trying to make sense out of it rather than just falling into the gift of living out of it?
Jesus at prayer, alone in the garden, begs for deliverance from what is going to happen to him. Imagining him so vulnerable is difficult for many of us.
Vulnerability in our culture is seen as weakness.
Yet it is through - only through - complete and utter vulnerability that Jesus defied our stiff-necked pride and said “I forgive you.”
“I love you.”
And doesn't love always imply vulnerability?
One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Even before the garden, each step Jesus took exposed him to all of those elements.
Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is courage. Vulnerability is strength.
Vulnerability is leadership.
Our church was born of vulnerability. Born out of turning the expected on its head. Born out of suffering and death turned into new life.
What hope is there for our church in the future?
Nothing that vulnerability can’t provide.
Nothing that uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure can’t propel us toward.
As we move through Holy Week, can we risk it all and open ourselves to such possibility?
Can we be vulnerable to the notion of a deliverance that comes from the most unlikely of places, and can we help our church to do the same?
And - as we go forward from Holy Week - can we truly embrace the lessons of a leader who surrenders everything, who bares his very soul, so that we might know the depths of God's heart?
Could we - just maybe - learn something this Holy Week about the type of leadership we as the church will need in this Brave New World of ministry? Could we, perhaps, learn to imitate the example that Christ first gave us - of a real, vulnerable leader courageous enough to embrace not just the pretty, wonderful parts of life, but the ugly ones as well?
A leader who isn’t afraid to fail.
A leader who isn’t afraid to ask for help.
A leader who isn’t afraid to move through the pain and the struggle toward real, beautiful, resurrection?
Now that's the kind of leadership that could lead the church forward in this Brave New World of ministry.