Protect the Core

Read Proverbs 4:23

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in North America. It begins in northern Minnesota and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico, south of New Orleans. The origin of the river is Lake Itasca, a small glacial lake. Being a glacial lake, the water is cold and clear although as the Mississippi River flows south on its journey to the gulf, it acquires much of the sediment and objects flowing into it from tributaries and land on its path. Keeping the origin of the river free from contamination is an important goal of volunteers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The verse chosen for today comes from the Book of Proverbs. This book of the Bible is a collection of wisdom sayings, many attributed to King Solomon of Israel. This particular verse makes reference to our hearts. Of course, the writer is not referring to our biological heart but instead is referring to the core and origin of our life. The wisdom here is to guard this core since it is the source of all which flows through and out of our lives. Keeping the core undamaged and free of contamination is important so we can experience and contribute positive aspects into our lives and the lives of others.

Like the people who strive to keep Lake Itasca healthy as the source of the great Mississippi River, we are charged in Proverbs to diligently keep our center of life healthy. The Mississippi River provides life to millions of humans and animals along its path and for hundreds of miles in each direction from its banks. Our heart does the same for all with whom we come in contact. Any contamination can and will have a negative impact. We must be mindful of any influence we allow on our hearts.

Leadership Transitions

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:22-30 (NIV)

One of the hallmarks of the way in which our nation is governed is the peaceful transition of power following an election. This is a closely followed tradition at every level of government from the President of the United States to the members of our local school boards. This type of transition sets our nation apart from many other countries. Nations which have adopted a variety of forms of democracy have emulated this quality of the United States. Even in very contentious elections, this hallmark has always been honored. The transition of power is a well-orchestrated process. How smoothly this occurs is based on the character of the individual in leadership prior to the election.

The passage from John’s gospel is about a transition of power. Prior to John baptizing Jesus, John had been the heralder of the Messiah and the one chosen to prepare the people for the coming of God’s kingdom. John was a leader who drew many people to himself. Once Jesus had been baptized by John and had begun his ministry, the process of transition was placed in motion.

Today’s passage brings Jesus in close physical proximity to John. Both men were continuing to teach and baptize the people who came to them. Because they were in the same area, a person came to John to point out that more people were going to Jesus than John. This is when we get to see the nature of the leadership of John. He reminds them that he had already said he was not the Messiah but instead he was to point others to the Messiah. Then John indicated that it is proper for the transition to take place. Jesus is to be the one who gathers more people to him while John’s influence is to diminish.

Transitions can be easy or very difficult. When the transition involves power and influence, the nature of the transition is amplified among humans. John, the Baptist, provides an excellent role model for leaders. Instead of fighting to retain power, control, and influence, a strong leader acknowledges the need for transition. The leader gracefully lessens the role which they now play and welcomes the new leader. This is the model which has been followed in our country since George Washington. This is the model of a servant leader. May we always see this model followed by all our leaders this day and forever more in our nation.