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Leadership - Pastor's Pen for 25th February 2024

Wairau Stream with channel markers

I've been reflecting on leaders this week, leaders of nations and even just ordinary leaders. This week we heard the news of the death of Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison close to the Arctic Circle. He was the only credible and articulate political opposition leader able to challenge and disrupt the status quo in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Having survived a previous poisoning attempt, and following life-saving treatment in Germany, he bravely returned to Russia to carry on the difficult task of challenging the corrupt political structures there and championing democracy, ultimately finding himself in a modern day Siberian gulag for his efforts, on manufactured criminal charges. Quite likely he was poisoned again, but the authorities seem to have misplaced his body, so we may never know.

There are echoes of Bonhoeffer returning to Nazi Germany in this contemporary news story, a bold leader hoping to make a difference in the face of tyranny and oppression.

Dictators like Hitler and Putin need to eliminate the opposition not because they necessarily come with a fearsome army, but because they come with new ideas that will disrupt the system of repression and corruption. They come speaking of hope, hope in something better and freer.

In Mark chapter 8 we find Peter's declaration that Jesus is 'Messiah'. Peter has observed his miracles and heard his teaching and rightly concludes Jesus is God's chosen one. Jesus then proceeds to map out a leadership style of loving self-sacrifice, an alternative reality that will lead to the cross. He is the ultimate disruptor of the settled system of Jewish religious life under Roman occupation. His new ideas are dangerous. So of course, he must die.

I spent a lunchtime this week figuring out which line to take crossing the usually murky Wairau Stream for the Coastal Challenge race on Saturday. I used the channel markers as a guide. We all need guidance and channel markers through the murky waters of life, we all need leadership. Which markers will you follow?

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