Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Messy Leaders

The mighty Viking, Canute the Great (c. 995 – 1035), once ruled a vast empire that cut across Scandinavia and the British Isles. A friend of Christianity, Canute once got so fed up with his flattering courtiers, he had his throne hauled to the edge of the shore and dramatically commanded the tide to halt. Before long, the king was knee-deep in lapping waves and no doubt licking ocean spray off his chin. Then, rising and turning to the quivering group, he admonished:

"Confess now how vain and frivolous is the might of an earthly king compared with that Great Power who rules the elements and says unto the ocean, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no farther!'"

The King's humility before God was noble. Yet, he wrestled with what we might characterize today as "anger management" issues. Prone to impulsive judgements, and wild swings between lashing, merciless retribution and remorse, he was hardly a model for the faith he worked so hard to advance.

After reading the accounts of missteps and misdeeds on the part of the patriarchs in Genesis, I'm struck with the graciousness of God as He has entrusted all kinds of flawed human beings with active, prominent roles in His redemptive plan. Reflecting upon Jacob prior to his transforming wrestling match with God at Peniel (Heb: "face of God"), he exhibited conniving, selfishness, callousness and a spirit of rebellion. Quoting Gerhard von Rad (Genesis, 1972) in Victor Hamilton's Handbook to the Pentateuch, "God's work descended deeply into the lowest worldliness..."

Seems to me more and more, it's a messy world and sometimes trail blazers are messy people. Which may beg the question with respect to ministry preparedness: What are we waiting for?

On my iPod... Harvest Home by Big Country (with a nod to Canute)

(Pic of Canute on coinage from Wikapedia.)

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