“The greatest risk in life is not taking one!” -Anonymous
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Matthew 14: 29 “He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”
For those of us who sometimes struggle with the title and history of the name “Christian,” I might suggest that the coolest rebranding we could do as an institution would be to call ourselves Water Walkers! Can you imagine the logos we could develop?
In all seriousness, Scripture is all about risk-taking and learning to reinvent ourselves. From Genesis to Proverbs to Matthew, we find sayings and stories that remind us that life changes, God is with us, and we have to take risks to make a difference. Life is about learning to walk on the water… and learning to swim with joy when it just doesn’t work out the first time.
At my recent younger clergy leadership cohort (The Next Generation Leadership Initiative) last week, we focused on the idea of adaptive challenge and adaptive leadership. One of the first lessons The Pension Boards wanted to relate to us before we could get into case studies was the difference between Authority and Leadership.
One of my cohort colleagues, The Rev. Kit Novotny, from First Congregational in Berkeley summarized our learnings this way at the end of the week: “Authority is about stabilizing, protecting the purpose of an organization/group, holding together. but LEADERSHIP is about opening up! De-stabilizing, disorienting. Creating disequilibrium. Expanding. Adaptive work is the problem for which we don’t have the solution. Instead, we ourselves have to change. We have to learn our way to the solution.”
In your life, in your relationships, in your spirituality…are you currently trying to be a leader or an authority? What are the things you are learning through? What experiments are you running to try to come to new solutions or ways of being?
Our religion is built on a tradition of stories about radical, adaptive experiments like walking on water. We have nothing to fear. We certainly should be hard to embarrass given the funny stories in our tradition and Scripture! We are the water walkers… and sometimes jubilant swimmers. It is Christianity that should inspire us to take risks rather than inspiring us to worry and stress.
I pray for all of us, with or without New Year’s Resolutions, that we all resolve to be leaders throughout our different contexts in these times of the unknown, unprecedented, and yet still emerging change.
Turns out, the greatest risk is forgetting that risk is our religion.
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph (or just Jake)
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake"), Associate Minister, came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. Read more about him on our staff page.