• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Who is our Leader?

I have a small blue book given to me by a mentor. It's called "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants." It has suggested scripture readings, prayers, and other readings for every day of every week of the year. Today's suggested Scripture reading is from Acts 17.


Acts 17:1-9 from the NRSV via Biblegateway.com

17:1 After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.”


4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But (some of) the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.”


8 The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9 and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.


Do you sense any themes or issues from this story of Paul that sound similar to America in November 2020? Some were persuaded, but others not. Some were jealous, and become mobs in the city. Some were shouting, "They are turning our world upside down!" Some were acting contrary to the statements of the Chief Executive, saying there is another ruler. People all over were feeling disturbed.


I'm amazed at how often a story of scripture resonates with the world around us. It often shocks and surprises me. Sometimes, I'm angered that we continue repeating the same mistakes. Other times, I'm encouraged that we too will make it through, just like those who came before us.


This coming Sunday, November 22, is Reign of Christ Sunday, the LAST Sunday of the church year. Christians all over the world will come together to say one thing loudly and clearly, "We only have one Leader, one Lord, one Ruler, Jesus the Christ."


Regardless of whatever other lower rulers are saying or doing, not saying, or trying not to do, we trust and believe God alone is our first and highest authority. There is no current or future political leader who is pure, holy, and perfect like God. Therefore, no political leader ever has deserved or ever will deserve all our support, allegiance, and faith. Nor should we be surprised when every political leader disappoints.


Also from that same blue book for this week is a quote from Carlo Carretto:

"The social struggle in my day was very lively and intense, almost, I should say, as much so as in your own times. Everywhere there arose groups of men and women professing poverty and preaching... the renewal of society. But nothing changed... It is not enough to change laws. You have to change hearts... For me the Gospel was the sign of liberation, yes, but of true liberation... that lifted me out of the middle-class spirit, which is present in every age, and is known as selfishness, arrogance, pride, sensuality, idolatry, and slavery."


May we find ourselves moved to be more committed to Kingdom politics than any other. May we become more confident that God alone is our Lord and leader. May we hold every leader accountable to one common standard, the revealing and building of God's kingdom. May we not follow any political leader blindly, but gladly follow God with every thought, word, action, and breath.

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In 2002, I left my corporate career, and went to seminary. Since 2005, I've been serving churches, and trying to follow Jesus, and lead others in doing the same...

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