File - The Church of the Reconciliation
Download File - The Church of the Reconciliation...
Leading a Culture Change A sermon by The Rev. Janice Ford July 12, 20015 I have a piece of paper taped to the wall over my desk that reads: “One might go so far as to say that a unique function of leadership, as contrasted with management or administration, is the creation and management of culture.” This quote is from a book called Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein. I read the book some time ago, and I picked out this quote because it spoke to me as the kind of leader I hoped to be as pastor of this church. My hope was to go beyond the day to day duties of being priest and pastor, and to create a culture that focused on our mission to follow the Great Commandment and Great Commission given to us by Jesus. Culture, used in this context, is best defined as “the ideas, customs, skills, etc. of a people or group that are transferred, communicated, or passed along to succeeding generations.” You might say that culture is a particular way of being--how a group acts in the world. It expresses the values held up by the group. When an organization or group lacks a defined culture, it is chaotic. First one thing is important, then another, then another. There is a lack of focus. That lack of focus leads to disengagement of members of the group. Communion, communication and a sense of purpose are lost. It is impossible for any leader to effectively lead in the development of a culture if the leader waffles on the values and ideals he or she holds dear. Being true to one’s self is pivotal. When a leader allows him or herself to be swayed by the possibility of an assault on his or her ego or reputation, holding together a culture focused on mission becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible. People need to know that their leader is strong in conviction. What I’ve just shared may seem like an odd way to begin a sermon. After all, this is a service of Holy Eucharist, not a business convention. But, I find the Gospel reading today to be, among other things, primarily a story about leadership, or more accurately, a lack, thereof. Herod is King and leader of the nation, yet he lacks the courage to follow his own heart and convictions. Herod is enamored of John. He sees him as a “righteous and holy man.” He enjoyed listening to him preach. Though John has spoken openly against Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herod is willing to live with it. His wife, however, is another matter. Herodias considers it an insult to her that John has spoken out against her marriage to Herod. In spite of Herod’s feelings of favor towards John, he crumbles when he is faced with deciding whether or not to give in to his stepdaughter’s (and wife’s) request for John’s head. If he refuses to have John killed, he risks losing his reputation as being a man of his word. Clearly, he places protecting his ego above sparing John’s life. We are left to wonder how salvation history might have been impacted had Herod refused to have John the Baptist murdered.
I think it is good for us to consider how our lives and the lives of those around us are changed for the better when we act out of the courage of our convictions as Christians. Are we helping to create a culture of compassion, mercy and hope in our little piece of the world by acting according to what we say we believe about God and God’s mission for us? Or do we find ourselves struggling to “walk the talk” because doing so is inconvenient, impractical, or socially risky? We are followers of Christ, but I believe that, in that role, Jesus also calls each of us to be leaders in creating a culture of mercy, compassion and hope. What we do in the world matters—a lot. The everyday decisions we make can have profound impact on the lives of others—good or bad. Perhaps we think we did not ask to be leaders. Perhaps we are followers of Jesus solely for our own benefit. The problem is that discipleship comes with responsibility. We cannot be Christians in isolation. Implicit in Christianity is the mandate to create and nurture a culture of mercy, compassion and hope in the name of Jesus. When we turn aside from that mandate, we risk losing our purpose and community with others. King Herod was a very powerful man in his time, but he was a very weak leader. His weakness lay in his inability to follow the mandate God put in his heart. His human needs took precedence over his spiritual needs. He was not able to create and maintain a culture that might have not only saved the life of John the Baptist, but that of Herod’s people as well. What stands in the way of each of us living into the culture of mercy, compassion and hope that God has put into our hearts? Amen.