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Listening and Leadership

Today’s readings include a first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon, and it is hard not to think about the events of January 6th at the Capitol when the halls of Congress were invaded by a mob who had been encouraged by the President. The news channels are today filled with talk of a second impeachment. And the words from the author or Hebrews linger like an echo.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.’” (3:7-11; referencing Ps 95:7-11)

The folks “in the desert” had choices – and made bad choices. It cost that generation entry into the promised land. But the people of the covenant survived.

I wonder about the people at the Capitol on Wednesday – they too had choices. Some bad choices. Lives were lost. Jobs lost. Careers ruined. I wonder about their hearts this morning. When the people in the desert rebelled, they turned to idols. The people of Wednesday’s rebellion had turned to an idol – the marketing package of Donald Trump.

I am sure some folks are thinking, “I wish these priests would stay out of politics…” But the folks in the desert, the folks at the Capitol, you and me, are making moral choices. The question is what moral framework you bring to the decision you are about to make. I worry that too many people have made President Trump their idol accepting every lie and false assertion he makes. Accepting his bullying actions such as with the State of Georgia election officials – all fellow Republicans. Accepting every public behavior that if it were our child, there would be serious reckoning. What has hardened their hearts that this is all ok? It seems as though the operative moral framework is: the ends justify the means.

But what hardens my heart about them. Am I willing to listen to their stories to see the beginning of the path when they followed the tune of this particular pied piper? When newspaper reporters went into the field post-2016 elections to discover what happened, so many of the accounts began with their litany of issues to which they felt no one listened. What hardened the hearts of those who would not listen?

I think too many have hardened heart about who formed the people before the Capitol. There were insurrectionists, racists, anti-Semites, white-supremacists, and a whole lot of regular people who believed the election had been stolen. One person interviewed said all they wanted was an “audit” of the Georgia elections. The person had no idea that the State of Georgia had done three recounts and two audits. When offered that information, the person paused in speechlessness – and in my imagination, a heart began to unfreeze. Someone listened.

We are in desert times of elections and the wilderness of pandemic. It is hard not to bunker down, listen to our favorite echo chamber of political thought, and slowly stop listening – and stop taking care of one another. Stop being servant leaders in our lives.

If you take care of Americans, they will take care of America, and the way you do that is through leadership. Leadership from the very top, but at every level of society. Take a look at the traits of leadership. Take a look at yourself. Your next encounter with someone who does not share your political view – it is not a zero-sum encounter. Take care of each other and the mission will find its own end. That is the start of servant leadership.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion

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