Leading from Love
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a minister for this congregation, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
What does this prayer ask for in a Christian leader?
Scripture Reflection: John 13:3-5
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
What is the relationship Jesus has with God that prepares him for his ministry?
Does this kind of relationship with God help prepare you for your ministry?
How do you help others experience this kind of relationship with God to help prepare them for ministry?
Who have you come from?
Scripture Reflection: Luke 15:11-32
While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. . . the father said to his slaves, "Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate . . . his elder son became angry and refused to go in . . . Then the father said to him, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found."
What do we learn from the parable of the lost sons about God’s love?
What keeps us from accepting God’s love?
Questions for Small Group Discussion: Do you know deep in your heart where you have come from?
Brennan Manning, the author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, often preached that he believed on judgment day each of us will be asked only one question by God: “Did you believe that I loved you?” How would you answer this question?
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, which brother are you? Why is it so hard for people to believe that God loves them unconditionally?
Consider and discuss the following quotes from Henri Nouwen about the parable of the Prodigal Son; how are these Good News?
Jesus’ life is an invitation for us to believe, not primarily in him but in the relationship between [himself and his father and] this very same relationship is uniquely available to each one of us . . . Jesus never, never, never makes a distinction between his relationship with Unconditional Love and ours . . . Jesus instead tells us, “All the things I’ve heard because of my communion with the Indwelling Beloved I tell you because I want you to have the same experience of knowing Love that I have”. . . Jesus came not simply to tell us about a loving Creator who is far away and who, from there, cares for us. Not at all! Jesus came to offer us the same full communion with the Spirit-Father-Mother-Lover that he enjoys, where he is in no way smaller than the One who sent him.
I believe the Giver of Live loves each of us as a daughter or son who is leaving and returning constantly. The more we become sensitive to our own journey the more we realize that we are leaving and coming back every day, every hour. Our minds wander away but eventually return; our hearts leave in search of affection and return sometimes broken; our bodies get carried away in their desires then sooner or later return. . . It’s normal, then, for us in growing up spiritually to live according to our nature. . . The God in the parable is a personal, intimate, and loving Presence who lets each of us go and welcomes each one home, all in amazing generosity and forgiveness. This reflection isn’t an intellectual exercise about right and wrong. More, it is an opening of ourselves to gradually let go of fear, to trust anew, and to make space for the love of the one who both blesses our leaving and waits to celebrate our return.
It’s a real struggle to bring our whole selves home and it is best accomplished gently and gradually. Jesus tells us it is a narrow path, meaning that we slip off occasionally, and that is OK. The whole course of the spiritual life is falling off, and returning, slipping away from the truth and turning back to it, leaving and returning. So in our leaving, as much as in our returning, we must try to remember that we are blessed, loved, cherished, and waited for by the One whose love doesn’t change.
(Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son and a Guide to Finding Your Spiritual Home)
How does it make a difference to a person’s life if they know God loves them?
Do leaders who understand God’s unconditional love lead differently? How?
How do you know and stay centered in God’s love?
Where are you being sent?
Scripture Reflection: Luke 10:25-37
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?"
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied, ". . . Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The lawyer said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
How does Jesus tie together returning to God both by participating in God’s kingdom right now and in the promise of everlasting life?
Questions for Small Group Discussion: Do you know where you are being sent?
Thinking of the parable of the Good Samaritan, how does your church community answer the question, “Who is our neighbor?”
Who are the people within your reach (i) if they come to us? (ii) if we go to them?
Do we understand the types of physical, educational, relational or spiritual needs our neighbors may have? Have we walked through neighborhoods, asked them, or spoken with social service agencies, schools and other institutions?
What needs would Jesus see in our mission field?
How does your Christian community support a journey of discovery that shows forth and helps others experience the three ways Jesus is in relationship with his father:
Incarnational (showing forth God’s love for people and creation)?
Discipling (helping people live into the loving relationships of God’s kingdom)?
Apostolic (sending people to love and serve God and other people in the world)?
What are some ways to love God? What are some ways to love others? (Luke 10:25-29; Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30; Deuteronomy 6:5)
How are you empowered for ministry?
"Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." (John 1:50-51)
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
Jesus answered them, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, "Be lifted up and thrown into the sea, it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." (Matthew 21:21-22)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Do you trust that you have the power you need to carry out God’s call in your life? Why or why not?
Jesus got up to wash his disciples’ feet “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God” (John 13:3). He knew God’s love deeply and fully because he knew he had come from God, he was returning to God, and God had given him an important purpose in the world.
Because he was fully grounded in his relationship with his Father, Jesus was able to live out of a consistent, centered integrity and to maintain his compassion and perform his mission whether people accepted, sought, and followed him, or rejected him and tortured him to death. His humility came from understanding who he was and who he was called to be. Now, he wants his followers to understand that they also can risk serving others because God is also in control of their lives in the same three ways.
First, we need to trust that we have come from God—that God has created our lives and uniquely gifted each of us for service among his people. Our relationship with God, and our entire perspective and approach to life, changes completely if we truly accept ourselves as God’s beloved daughters and sons. Jesus fully expects his followers to know this unconditional love deeply and with our whole being—emotionally and spiritually, not just intellectually. Knowing God’s love is knowing where we have come from.
Second, we need to trust that we are returning to God both by participating in God’s kingdom right now and in the promise of everlasting life. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus ties together loving God, loving one another, and inheriting everlasting life—all by showing mercy to our neighbors. Jesus is saying that we can participate in God’s kingdom of love right now by loving and blessing other people.
And third, we need to trust that in our personal relationship with God, we have the power we need to carry out God’s call for our lives. We may not believe that we can perform the healing miracles of Jesus, but he sends his disciples to love and serve God and other people with the same compassion he showed to those who are suffering or outcast. Jesus sends his disciples into the world to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and cure every disease and every sickness, and he empowers us to participate in God’s healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation (Matthew 10; Luke 10). Although any one of us may not be able to do what Jesus does, we can do the same things together as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
Knowing that the Father has given all things into our hands and that we have come from God and are going to God is all about knowing God’s love for us and responding with love. People who experience God’s love act differently and treat others differently. We can also become more courageous, encouraged, emboldened, grateful, accepting, compassionate, and loving. The world is bigger and brighter, and there is a greater sense of abundance. Our relationships with people change. People who lead from love are focused on serving others. We are able to serve with honesty, unselfishness, purity, and love, which all point to humility. Care and compassion for others leads to their trust and engagement as followers.