When The Shepherds Left, The CEOs Arrived

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Christmas is over again for another year. Now, you are beginning to see Christmas lights being taken down, Christmas trees (the real ones) being put into wood shredders and turned into mulch. Nativity sets are also being disassembled and packed away again for next year.

The biblical narrative talks about the wonderful event of Jesus birth. How the wise men (monarchs? royalty?) came from the East and brought the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the Christ child. (Matthew 2:11)

But this idyllic pastoral scene is short-lived. Soon, the reality of political jealousy and enmity will surface and this peaceful scene of the birth of Jesus will be disrupted. The writer of Matthew’s gospel records:

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country … not to return to Herod, the Magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:12)

The political climate under Herod The Great was not safe. Any hint that someone would be identified as being of a divine origin was to be searched out and destroyed. Matthew’s Gospel also records:

16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2: 16–17)

Why would anyone want to disturb the peace of Christmas? Why would there be a need to institutionalize the belief in Jesus? The early followers of Jesus revealed a great diversity in thought and interpretation for over two centuries. By 88 CE there was a movement of Jesus followers who separated themselves from the Jewish temple, but then again there was also a group that saw their identity rooted in the Jewish religious tradition.

As time went on, there were those followers of Jesus who saw him as being human, others who recognized him as being divine, and those who wanted to see him as being both human and divine. Of course in 317CE when Emperor Constantine becomes converted to Christianity, there was this growing phenomena of establishing an orthodoxy (a correct belief) of the faith.

So why is it that when the shepherds left the manger, there was a need for the CEOs to come in and manage things? Can humans not be content with experiencing the mystical and be satisfied with living within the mystery, as Rainier Rilke would say “learning to live the questions?”

Recently, in the last few decades, I have observed the following phenomena; some clergy in leadership positions have ceased to be shepherds, now they are mangers, the CEO’s of Christendom. Now, I’m not saying the Church does not need good organizational policies. Indeed, there is great value in sound management and effective utilizations of resources.

But what has been lost is the sense of taking care of one another as clergy. A friend of mine recently observed that when this individual was being considered for the position of the leader of a conference, this person indicated that they wanted to be a “shepherd” to other pastors. Instead, the conference search committee stated that they wanted a manager.

Does it have to be either-or could it be both?

One well-known Senior Minister of a well-established church describes their role as “being CEO of the corporation, manager of the facilities including the rare book collection and the pewter.”

Can we reclaim the role of Shepherd, of tending to the needs of people, of being concerned for the health and welfare of the entire “flock,” of the entire beloved “community?”

May we be open to the radiant light that guides us to seek direction home in a different way.

May it be so.

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