Day 36 – Invested Leaders

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Dear President Trump:

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are again about leadership.  In the Gospel reading (John 10:1-18), Jesus describes different types of leaders, using an analogy of how each relates to sheep.

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Contributed by David Padfield – Free Bible Images

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy the sheep. Such leaders exploit people. They lead because of what they can get for themselves. In the Old Testament reading, such leaders incur God’s anger. (Jeremiah 25:30-38)

The hired hand watches the sheep – but only until things get tough.  Leadership for such persons is only a job.  That are not invested in the flock. They care more about themselves and their jobs than about the sheep.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Leadership for such persons is a calling.  They are fully invested in caring about others’ needs – especially the most vulnerable people.

This nation badly needs more of the last type of leaders – those who are fully invested in the well-being of those who are at greatest risk.

Congress is mired in another partisan debate. On media interviews, both parties too quickly justify their own position why demonizing the position of the other. Meanwhile the American people bear the burden of poor governance.

The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding where I work trains peacebuilders from around the world to build effective dialogue, negotiation, and conflict transformation processes. We would gladly send a team to work with Congress and the Executive Branch to develop more healthy processes.

In your book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, you write: “What I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line.” Mr. President, please work to build a culture of invested leaders in Washington.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

 

 

Day 35 – Winners and Losers

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Dear President Trump:

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are about winners and losers — an appropriate topic for the day after the climax of March Madness!

In the Old Testament reading, there are only losers. God will use the enemy Babylonians to bring judgment upon God’s wayward people. But after 70 years of exile in Babylon, God will bring judgment on the Babylonians themselves. (Jeremiah 25:8-17) The psalmist says winners should: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:13-14)

In the Epistle reading, there are many winners: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12) And in the Gospel reading there are unexpected winners and losers. Within earshot of the religious leaders who opposed his healing work on the Sabbath, Jesus tells the man whose sight he has just restored: “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” (John 9:39)

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At a different time, Jesus describes a roll call of nations in which winners and losers are announced. Surprisingly, the winners are not the wealthiest or the most powerful. Rather, they are the most compassionate:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory… All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-40)

Mr. President, work with Congress and the nation’s governors and religious leaders to ensure that this nation is on a winning team.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

Day 34 – Ironies

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Dear President Trump:

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are filled with irony.

In the Old Testament reading, it is those who are exiled to Babylon who will be restored to the land, while those who remain at home will be driven from the land. (Jeremiah 24:1-10) In the Epistle reading, Paul says that many outsiders (Gentiles) will have a right relationship with God because of their faith, while many insiders (Israel) will fail to have a right relationship because they depend on their own efforts. (Romans 9:19-33) In the Gospel reading, it is a man born blind who sees and understands who Jesus is, while the religious leaders cannot see because they get tripped up over the fact that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. (John 9:1-17)

Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (Salt, Jordan) -- Muhammad and Brent

Muhammad, who is both deaf and blind, taught us much about the beauty of life (Holy Land Institute for the Deaf – Salt, Jordan)

All these texts are reminders that God works in surprising ways. Reading them makes me wonder how often we get stuck in old ways of thinking and imaging the solutions to challenges we face as a nation today.

Mr. President…

  • What if the way to win in Washington is for both parties to be humbler – recognizing that they need each other’s wisdom — rather than being more crafty and forceful?
  • What if our national security is tied, not to further boosting our military or building walls, but to being more generous and strategic with foreign assistance?
  • What if creating jobs for Americans is resolved, in part, by welcoming immigrants – many of whom start businesses in the United States?
  • What if the way to way to increase energy independence is by conserving energy consumption rather than by extracting more oil and gas and using more than our fair share of the world’s resources?

Author Alice Walker, who is blind in her right eye because of a childhood accident, has reflected: “On a spiritual level, it’s as though with my sighted eye I see what’s before me, and with my unsighted eye I see what’s hidden. It’s illuminated life more than darkened it.”

May we, too, be illuminated to see that which for too long has been hidden to us.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

 

Day 33 – Great Leaders

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Dear President Trump:

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings speak about leadership – both bad and good. Hundreds of books have been written about what makes a great leader.  The readings today highlight just three things:

Kurdistan, Iraq

The principal and teacher at a 2-room village school in Iraqi Kurdistan endure many difficulties to provide a good education for the children

  1. The source of their vision. Is their vision self-informed or God-informed? In the Old Testament reading, false prophets delude the people with “visions of their own minds” rather than “from the mouth of the Lord.” They tell a wayward and stubborn people, “It shall be well with you” and “No calamity shall come upon you.” But God says that the “deceit of their own hearts” and their “lying dreams…do not profit this people at all.” (Jeremiah 23:16-32)
  2. The focus of their vision. Is their vision self-centered or other-centered? In the Epistle reading, Paul becomes servant of all and places himself in other’s shoes to be winsome in sharing good news with all who will listen. (I Corinthians 9:19-27)
  3. The sacrifice for their vision. At what cost are they willing to pursue their vision? In the Gospel reading, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. He then tells his disciples that if they wish to follow him they must “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Mr. President, I am again reminded of Rev. Paula White-Cain’s prayer at your inauguration: “Gracious God, reveal unto our president the ability to know … your will, the confidence to lead us in justice and righteousness, and the compassion to yield to our better angels.”

And of this quote by the late American poet Maya Angelou: “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.”

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

 

Day 32 – Humbled

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Dear President Trump:

There comes a terrifying time for each of us when we realize that old ways no longer work, and that we don’t have any idea what is the next step to take.

The same is true of nations. In this nation, our political, economic, educational and healthcare systems are stressed to the point of breaking — and we don’t seem to know where to turn or how to fix them.

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are about being humbled.  A painful thing to be sure. But a good starting point.

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In the Old Testament reading, fake leaders have led people astray. Their course is evil. Their “might is not right.” They “commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers.” God warns that their way will become “like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall.”  (Jeremiah 23:10-14) In the Epistle reading, Paul recounts how the proud and mighty Pharaoh was, in fact, no match for God: “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)

To the contrary, when the Psalmist is humbled, he cries out to God, “Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul…Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.” (Psalm 143:8-10) And in the Gospel reading, when many abandon Jesus, he asks his inner circle of 12 whether they, too, plan to leave. Peter responds: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)

As a nation, we now face this choice: humbling ourselves before God or blindly plowing ahead.  Humbling ourselves ultimately leads to the path of seeking God’s ways and serving others — instead of only pursuing our own interests.

You end your book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, with these words: “In my life, there are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work. One of the challenges ahead is how to use those skills as successfully in the service of others as I’ve done, up to now, on my own behalf.” (emphasis added)

Mr. President, may you model for the nation the grace and humility to do just that.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler