Jesus is clear that the greatest commandment is to love God and that a second commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The commandment to love is the basis of all the world’s major religions. Few Christians would argue that anything is more important to God.
In many church traditions, this Sunday is Reformation Sunday—a time for
trumpets and triumphalism, for remembering where we Protestants got it
right and for justifying our salvation with a vigorous singing of
Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” We may even believe that it is
we who are the prophets like Moses, the ones whom God knows face to
A few months ago, the evening news was playing in the background as our family was getting organized for supper. I overheard the anchor ask, “Who is the most powerful preacher in Charlotte? Is it . . . ?” and he named four relatively prominent clergy. “Call in and vote! Or e-mail us! And we’ll tell you tomorrow night who really is the most powerful preacher!”
Is leadership, specifically pastoral leadership, a spiritual practice? Dorothy Bass has defined practices as “those shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that, woven together, form a way of life.” Does leadership address a fundamental human need?
The atmosphere is not one of lively and amiable scholarly debate; it is hostile, and the intent is to discredit Jesus. Much is at stake—Jesus’ authority, his role and his identity. Tom Long has called this Jesus’ final exam, because it will be this test that ultimately dooms Jesus in the minds of the scholarly authorities.