In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we were reminded to listen to the voice of God, the voice that called creation into existence. Today, I want to reflect upon how we do this in a distinctively Christian way.
In the 1970s, the brokerage firm of E.F. Hutton ran an unforgettable series of TV commercials. The set up was always similar. Two people in a crowded public place are talking about financial matters. One shares the wisdom of some broker. The other person responds, “Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says . . . .” At that moment, the surrounding crowd is immediately quiet. Everyone leans forward eagerly to hear what E. F. Hutton says. The voiceover explains, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Even as a teenage boy with no interest in financial markets, I learned that E.F. Hutton had a voice worth hearing, a powerful voice, indeed.
Given how familiar I am with the creation narrative in Genesis 1, I find it hard to step back and see it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can relate. But if I use my imagination, I can gain some perspective. I imagine, for example, how else God might have been introduced to us. We could glimpse a vision like that of Revelation, with God seated on the throne and myriads of heavenly beings worshiping before him. Or we could meet God as the Good Shepherd caring for his sheep. There are so many other possibilities. (If you want a theological wild ride, check out the Enuma Elish, the ancient Babylonian creation account. You’ll see just how different Genesis might have been.)
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
If you’re a Protestant or Roman Catholic Christian, you might worry that my calendar is a week off, since I just offered you the traditional paschal (Easter) greeting. For Christians in the West, last Sunday was Easter. If you’re an Eastern Orthodox believer, however, today is Easter Sunday for you. Throughout this day, you’ll hear the greeting, “Christ is risen!” and respond with “He is risen, indeed!” or “Truly, he is risen.”
But, we might say the paschal greeting is appropriate any day of the year, since we are to live our whole lives in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
A few years ago, the Center for Creative Leadership did a survey on power and leadership. The findings were published in a white paper entitled, “The Role of Power in Effective Leadership.” Among other things, the researchers found that “Most leaders surveyed (94 percent) rated themselves as being moderately to extremely powerful at work.” This makes sense, given the fact that most leaders do in fact have at least some power, otherwise they would not be able to lead. The study also discovered “a notable correlation between leaders’ level in the organization and how powerful they believe themselves to be at work.” Again, lots of common sense here. Leaders, especially executive leaders, have power, often lots of it.
Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrates creativity. The school’s posters proclaim: “Nobody puts creativity in a corner” and “When creativity is a state of being, there are no limits.” A promotional video explains, “Creativity is our foundation.” In another clip, a Lesley professor adds, “Creativity really empowers people to be the masters of their own universe.”
I realize that much of this is intentionally exaggerated, but such rhetoric reflects a common tendency to exalt human potential in a way that might actually limit it. Allow me to explain what I mean.
For several years, I was the senior director of Laity Lodge, a unique retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. Laity Lodge sits in a canyon alongside the Frio River, far away from the bustle of civilization. The nearest town, Leakey, which has about 400 residents, is 13 miles away. San Antonio, the closest city of significant size, is 80 miles away as the crow flies. Thus, Laity Lodge offers something rare in today’s world, the chance to get truly away from the demands, pressures, intrusions, and cacophonies of ordinary life.
One of the magnificent gifts of Laity Lodge is the chance to see the sky as we rarely see it.
I began yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion by pointing to the introduction of Pip in Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations. Pip appears in the first paragraph of the novel, in which he explains the derivation of his strange name. Though officially Philip Pirrip, the boy couldn’t say his proper name when learning to talk. Instead, he referred to himself as Pip, and the nickname stuck.
The very first verse of Genesis introduces us to God. The word “God,” which serves here almost as God’s name, is rather like the name “Pip” in that it raises some interesting questions. Though we don’t see what’s peculiar about “God” in English translations, in the original Hebrew the oddness stands out plainly.
Today’s reading: Genesis 1:1-2
Sometimes great stories introduce the protagonist in the very first paragraph. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, for example, we are immediately introduced to Pip, the central figure of the novel, and we learn why he has such an odd name. Yet, other stories wait for some time before the protagonist appears. In Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean does not show up until around page 50 (out of 1200). If you were not familiar with Hugo’s classic story, while reading the first chapters you might think the Bishop of Digne was the main character. As it turns out, he plays a pivotal but relatively small role in the story of Les Misérables, in which Valjean is the main character.
The Bible takes a Dickensian approach to its protagonist….
When was the last time you really wanted to make a good first impression? I experienced this desire a few weeks ago when I journeyed to Holland, Michigan, in order to meet Max De Pree. Max is a legendary leader, beloved mentor, and best-selling author of several books. Leadership Is an Art, Max’s first book, had a marked influence on my own leadership when I read it as a young pastor more than twenty years ago. Thus, I wanted to impress Max as I shared how he had shaped my work as a leader.