“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.”
– Romans 15:20-23, NRSV

I am learning to listen to podcasts. Auditory learning is harder for me, so it takes me longer to unravel the deeper thoughts I hear, but I am learning. This week I saw a link to a podcast with Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, and I couldn’t resist (the podcast link is at the end of this article for those who may be interested). It is called “Tempered Resilience.” Bolsinger talks about the importance of resilience, particularly for leaders, in uncertain times. If we aren’t living in uncertain times today, then I don’t know what they are! So, Bolsinger had my attention.

Ecologists define “resilience” as “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and re-organize so that it retains its core purpose and identity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.” Bolsinger’s definition is more to the point: “Resilience is the capacity to maintain core purpose and integrity in the midst of a changing world.” In the podcast, he asks these tough opening questions: “How do we maintain the most important things in times of change – especially when we must lose some – or even a lot – of other things? How do we stay in the thing we are called to do, because it is really important?… Resilience is transformational, especially when every part of us wants to give up!”

Resilience is especially difficult for leaders. Bolsinger says that the hardest thing for leaders is, right in the middle of rallying people towards a mission, your own internal people try to pull you back. The greatest challenge is not the external disturbances in which we find ourselves, but the internal resistance from our own people who want to give up and go back to what they knew before the disturbance ever
happened! Hope, purpose, and courage are needed to help people move through this time of transformation. He calls this the “crucible of change,” and says the challenge for leaders is to help people go through the change, even in the tremendous pressure to go back. It takes leaders who are teachable, attuned (empathetic), adaptable, and tenacious. While all four of these characteristics are important,
developing tenacity, Bolsinger says, is “really, really important!”

The term “crucible of change” caught my ear. It images, for me, a picture of the tenacity of Jesus, all the way to the cross. He was crucified by His own people; they could not handle the disturbance of their God, who was living among them. Jesus disrupted the easy rote-ness of the Shema prayer – the most important and spoken prayer in Judaism – by boiling it down to a single focus of actually living it out: love God and, equally, love neighbor. Bolsinger reminds us that His “disruption” eventually led to the cross. But without Jesus’ focus on mission and His tenacity to see it through, we would have remained in our own hot messes, with no hope or way through them. “Left to ourselves,” Bolsinger quips, “we would love God and make ourselves comfortable!”

As we enter this Easter season after a year of pandemic disturbance, it occurred to me that resurrection is God’s response to our tendency to give up and die comfortably. It is “God-breathed resilience” on display! When Jesus passed through His “crucible of change,” God raised and transformed Him into someone both new and yet the same. The Apostle Paul said that the Risen Christ is the “first fruit” of the cross He endured, with the promise of resurrection for “all who belong to Christ” (that’s us!) when Christ comes again. In Christ, we are connected into the Hope of resurrection, the Purpose of His mission, and the Courage to be tenacious through our current disruptions!

Our world, and those of us in it, has been forever impacted by the COVID pandemic and its disruption. The question before us is this: are we willing to embrace the new world now set before us, for the sake of Christ’s mission? Or, will we blindly push to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, without discerning where we need to be in order to effectively pursue our mission? A task force is being assembled to discern and guide us as we re-align the priorities and post-pandemic ministries of the church with our mission: to make disciples of Jesus, who serve beyond the walls. Please keep this team in your prayers as they wade through the complexity of this task!

In the Risen Christ, we have the sure and certain hope of resurrection, both individually and as a congregation. In the Risen Christ, we have been given a clear purpose and mission. In the Risen Christ, we have the courage to move into the unknown, knowing Christ has already defeated the death we fear, if we are willing to embrace it. Together, we can continue to be clear about our purpose, engage
deeply in loving God and neighbor, and courageously embrace the rebuilding of our community!

Yours for the Journey,
Pastor Kerrin
Here is the link to Bolsinger’s podcast:
https://tmf-fdn.org/podcasts/episode/resilient-leadership-with-tod-bolsinger