This reflection is the second in the unfolding Leadership series. The first series was Leadership & Legacy and this one explores Leadership from the vantage of Seed Sowing.
The last time we shared worship with one another, we explored leadership through the lens of legacies. Some of the questions we explored were:
What are those things that have been entrusted to us that we are called to bring forward into the future?
What are we nurturing now to ensure that the children who follow will be able to thrive as God’s Beloved?
Leadership and seed sowing. The image of seeds, the metaphor of planting, is an old and ancient one. It is powerful because it resonates throughout time for it speaks to feeding and sustenance, thriving and living well throughout the generations. The connexion with leadership, therefore, takes on a greater importance when we consider our own responsibility as Christ’s disciples in our here and now.
How we understand this responsibility, I believe, can begin to be resolved by reflecting on this question: who’s seeds are we sowing? Another way of continuing the conversation about leadership and legacies, therefore, is to appreciate that sowing seeds is about allegiance.
Do we plant to benefit ourselves or Creator?
Are we preparing a harvest for others to sow or do we enjoy it now at the risk of depriving those who will follow?
There are two ways in which I would like to explore seed sowing in regard to our discipleship. The first is to consider what seeds have been sown in us. The second is what seeds we are asked to sow.
This leadership journey, as disciples, is not easy. It demands of us self-knowing, reflection and care. Whether we are invited, individually or as Christian communities to care for Creator’s creation, our choices will always have implications. Implications that offer care or cause harm. As we heard in Corinthians, those implications can help others awaken into the blessing we each are, or they oppress and keep others limited, confined and burdened.
Growing up, my Sitto, which is Arabic for maternal grandmother, taught me many things. I had the blessing to have her and my mother shape and nurture me into the person I would one day be.
I have recently been digitising my mother’s papers, following her death last year. That journey has revealed a theme that she and my Sitto kept instilling in me: education. In letters far too many to count, my grandmother encouraged me to keep learning, get an education, get a good job and – most pointedly in all of these gifts of memory – be a good man, she told me. By “told,” I do not mean she was suggesting it as an option: it was a commissioning, a mandate!
Creator acts, often through us, to speak to one another. There are difficult times and experiences that occur throughout our lives and those with whom we walk as disciples. As disciples our task is to discern where the Holy has spoken to us. This is a discipline that is important. Without such listening, how is it that we can identify the seeds sown in us as disciples, need alone in others?
Whether your blessing is learning or teaching, sowing or building, talking or caring, these are the seeds that are given to you. In recognising the sown possibilities within us, we are reminded that not only are we responsible for Creator’s world, but that we are intrinsically blessed and beautiful.
This revelation is awe-inspiring and can be frightening. To recognise we are wonderfully and awesomely made is a powerful knowing. As disciples offering leadership in a broken world, we cannot do this well without first claiming those gifts entrusted to us, in order to so care and awaken those who are hurting, doubting and questioning.
If one task of discipleship is to discern that which has been sown within us, the one that follows is in regard to our doing as leaders who have benefitted from that harvest within us.
What and where are we asked to sow?
For whom are we planting harvests we may never see?
Whether as individuals or Christian communities, these are missional questions. They affect lives and they are fraught with ethical considerations. In order to answer these questions, therefore, I am going to suggest we explore them in three ways:
The Neighbour as Stranger or Other.
Now I am not a handy person. Give me a computer and software, and (sometimes) I can be useful. In my house, since receiving lots of tools as wedding gifts many years ago, my refrain is my tools made this and that. Thanks to my spouse, I get to brag a lot through the work she does via those tools!
Whether in the houses we have owned or the college’s care of the building that is St. Andrew’s, stewards should leave that which they have inherited in better condition than that in which it was received. Shelly and I have now owned two houses and in each, our first priorities have been to better insulate the space and upgrade the electrical. At the college, we are over halfway through replacing 550 windows and are addressing asbestos and removing it carefully.
As Creator’s stewards, that for which we care requires us to sow in order for creation to provide God’s abundance in harvests well into the future. The choices we make, as disciples, must be seen through that lens. If we do not recognise that this is not ours, then we stand in danger of exploiting creation in ways that leaves the land less capable to provide bounty for those to come.
This ethical component of our leadership, then brings us to the seeds sown in regard to the children who may or may not inherit the abundance that we have enjoyed. Whether you are four or sixty, it is what people do, not what they say, that is often from which we learn.
As leaders, sowing on behalf of Creator, what messages are we conveying by our actions?
Do those actions complement the words we use as Christians?
Does our encouragement and formation of the next generation align with our doing?
These questions are never rhetorical – they are critical. They are critical because though we cannot predict the future, we can anticipate it when we consider whether our Christian values reflect that in what we are doing in the world. That alignment is experienced and judged by those for whom we have the privilege to currently sow: our children.
Just as Creation and children are ways we can explore our leadership as those who seed sow, so too is the Stranger or the Other. In the Christian tradition this means our neighbour. Though it historically might include the people next door, more often it is in regard to people whom we do not know, might not like and who may not share our values. Understanding seed sowing through this vantage introduces us to the Christian value of hospitality.
Parable of the Mustard Seed
Every choice, as I have mentioned, we make in our discipleship is tied explicitly to ethical considerations and outcomes. The Christian mandate, which is consistent throughout the Abrahamic tradition, is to welcome the Stranger radically. We are called to make safe space for those who are lost, hurting, and persecuted.
This safe space is not about economic efficiencies or a return on investment. It is about modelling Creator’s abundance in a world in which too often people hurt and weep, in which grief overwhelms, yet is not heard or seen in a world filled with constant noise and distraction.
These three ways to explore our leadership as disciples – Creation, Children and the Other – helps us to better appreciate what it means to be Creator’s seed sowers. This beautiful pale blue dot upon which we abide is not ours. As leaders, we must be aware when ego and faith get confused. Being clear why we do what we do helps reveal clarity in the midst of confusion.
Where these three lenses take you, whether as an individual or faith community, will differ. There is no right answer or response, but there is a consistent imperative that leaves us with this question:
When our days are done, when those who shall follow begin to dawn the mantle of discipleship that we pass on, is Creation, are the children and the Other inheriting a world that is better than when we began to plant that which is not ours?