In our gospel this morning, Jesus asks that we keep awake. I don’t know about you but staying awake was not a problem for me this week! If you are anything like me staying awake was easy. It trying to get some rest that was hard.
But Jesus isn’t talking about that kind of wakefulness. The kind fueled by anxiety and stress - the things we cannot control. Jesus is pointing to what is within our control. The quality of our being-ness. What we direct our gaze and attention towards.
On Wednesday morning, I gathered in a Zoom classroom with about thirty people from all over the country, and a few in Europe even. I’ve been meeting with this group since July, for three days, once a month.
It is a cohort of professionals, primarily outside the church – people in a wide variety of fields – from consulting, the military, fortune five hundred companies, lawyers, teachers – and all of us are there to learn about one thing. Leadership, specifically building up our ability to cultivate leadership in ourselves and others. Through the lens and discipline of leadership coaching.
What do you think of when I say coaching? I’ll bet, like me, most of you think of a coach. A person who supports a team in a wide variety of ways to accomplish a goal – winning.
I am a lifelong learner I can’t imagine a day when I am “done” taking in knowledge, tools and practices that will add to my vocation to support people and communities - in developing their God-given capacities to bring love, joy, hope and courage into their lives and into our world.
To me that’s what church is all about - but in church we don’t have teams, we have committees. We have vestries - we have advisory groups - we have boards - right now we even have a task force.
Regardless of the label – we come together for a purpose - to listen for God’s call and discern how we can live into that call - how we can support one another, and share our gifts for the common good.
Unlike a sports team though our purpose, isn’t to win. It is to grow. To build up. To grow into the mind of Christ, as St. Paul says. Or to build each other up in love, also as St. Paul says. Or, to keep awake, as Jesus says this morning. To prepare ourselves to pay attention to our life. For that is where God abides all the time, in every moment.
The biggest surprise for me in this Georgetown leadership program on coaching is how much of the program is about simply paying attention. Apparently the ways in which the corporate world thinks of leadership these days has a lot in common with what I have found in my life of faith - in my spiritual journey. Through the teachings of Jesus in our faith tradition.
Leaders keep awake. Leaders pay attention to their thinking. That is how leaders are able to take in multiple perspectives and stand in challenging situations and see different points of view bringing them together for shared purpose.
And the job of a coach is simply the help another person notice. Notice what it is they are thinking. Notice what it is they are assuming.
Notice their assumptions and beliefs. You know, the stories we all start telling ourselves when something or someone pushes our buttons - or challenges what we think we know.
Coaches help people turn problems into opportunities by cultivating curiosity. In the service of paying attention to what is within our control and what isn’t. Where we might need to ask for help. Where we might need to ask a clarifying question. It’s amazing how many small - mustard seed opportunities - can pass us by if we don’t practice this muscle of noticing.
I believe our church - The Church of the Good Shepherd - is a community leaders. Leaders who lean in and lean on the shoulders of each other. Who share their voices and their gifts and the abundance trusting in the mutual discernment of the leaders that guide our community. We listen for the voice of the good shepherd. And this morning, his voice is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the ongoing work of our ministry in building up the common good.
That’s what I hear Jesus coaching this morning. Maybe you have but maybe you haven't noticed the prayer our Outreach committee prayed at the beginning of this week? I've noticed how many views has gotten on Facebook and been pleasantly surprised. It affirmed something I too easily forget – people want to pray.
My inspiration for it was simply noticing how I needed prayer last week, more so than usual. So I wanted us to share a prayer that named the very real ways our community is seeking to build up the common good. The ways in which no matter how events of the week unfolded, we remember that our ministry is the same.
To create communities that will build your kingdom here on earth – communities that will protect the poor, stand up for the vulnerable, advocate for those who are not seen and heard, and listen to everyone’s voice. Words we try and pay attention to the people and places that aren't always noticed.
Our community doesn't focus on winning or losing. We are followers of Jesus. We aren’t a sports team or political party. We are the children of God - trying to notice the children of God that are all around us.
Where are you seeing the love of God in your life right now? Who in your life might need you to notice them right now? What is the oil that you need so that your light may shine right now? like a lot of the parables in Matthew's gospel there is a definite edge to this one. It's a little bit scary to think about God shutting the door. So let's remember that earlier in this gospel Jesus tells us we can always open that door, too.
Cultivate your ability to keep awake. To pay attention to what really matters every day, all the opportunities for growth and transformation in our own life and circumstances. As the standing committee of our diocese reminded us in a letter sent this week, let us show the world what a community of love looks like. Let us notice, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”(5:22-23)
For that is how we model and give witness, how we help the world notice the belovedness of being a child and family of God. Amen.