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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sermon on the Anniversary of the Death of General "Stonewall" Jackson (1863) and the Battle of Spotsylvania (1864)

Brian: I am NOT the Messiah!
Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few.
We're remembering two deaths today, in effect. Jackson died on this day in 1863, having been shot by his own troops by mistake. While today in 1864 the Battle of Spotsylvania took place. In which battle, in its early skirmishing phase on 9 May, General Sedgwick was killed by snipers after announcing "You couldn't hit an elephant [at this distance*]"

Particularly in the light of yesterday's musings on Prophecy, I see these anniversaries as a warning to leaders everywhere. For it is the leader in the front line who gets shot by the guns of both sides. Steve comments on the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes (and responds by saying there are no chaplains in foxholes).  But the people that were missing in the foxholes, if Black Adder Goes Forth is right, were the Generals, who were busy getting their batpeople to dust their drinks cabinets and pour them another stiff gin.

The thing is, people want vision. I've taken a poll of the three most popular "prophetic" remarks that are uttered in churches as if nobody has ever thought of them before, and they're these three:

  1. "So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev 3:16)
  2. "To the angel of the church in Sardis write:.... I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." (Rev 3:1)
  3. "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Prov 29:18).

And the thing about them is this - numbers 1 and 2 are normally uttered by pastors about their congregations. But number 3 is normally muttered by the congregations, about their pastors. Oddly, they normally quote the KJV as above and not any more modern version, regardless of what version of the Bible the church uses - almost as if the form of the complaint has been handed down from congregation to congregation since the day Tyndale first wrote the words.

 A wise man (Michael Saward, I believe) once said that evangelicals are suckers for a prophet - and this isn't just true for the evos, but firmly I believe and truly it impacts on others in the church - as more traditional Catholics compare the vision of the Pope to their allegedly less visionary bishops - and the secular world alike. So Maggie Thatcher is remembered with love by some and loathing by others, while John Major we remember as that bloke with his shirt tucked into his underpants, eating peas. Likewise Tony Blair is either the architect of New Labour or a snake-oil-selling war criminal, according to choice - whereas Gordon Brown is just that bloke who was bad at numbers who called a northern lady a bigot.

So not to have a vision is to fail as a leader. While if you have vision, and lead from the front, you get shot by both sides. I've had a revelation here. I'm going to be a visionary leader, but I'm going to stay in an ivory tower. That way I'm bound to be safe.

* Traditional

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