St Dunstan’s

Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England

St Dunstan's James Tomkins 2

James’ Message

Dear Friends,

Leadership comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. The world has seen a selection of people who've exercised leadership as dictators, such as Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe. Usually these persons rise to power through sham elections or unsavoury means, which leads us to question as to where do they get their authority from? The reality is that the local population often had little or no choice in the matter, as these men simply grabbed power by force and made themselves supreme leaders.

Then there's the kind of leadership contest that we saw in the General Election between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, or the slugging match in 2016 between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. These are people fighting in a different way to be given authority by the British and American people to govern them. They each bring their own political agenda and their authority comes from being voted into office by the people. They will aim to fulfil people's expectations of them, by carrying out the promises and pledges in their manifesto, so that in five or four years' time the people can either re-elect them or vote them out of office, depending on their record in power.

There's also the leadership where people influence the world, even though they aren't rich, powerful or hold political office. People such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, who by the work they did, changed people's attitudes. They have no authority in a formal sense, but by the type of people they are, and the work they do, they possess a moral authority. They're people we look up to and we want to be like because they've earned our respect and we value their leadership.

These are three very different examples of leadership and authority. When we look at the life of Jesus, it's the third type of 'power' that we see shining through. Jesus was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter's shop until He was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held public office. He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did any of those things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying his executors gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth: his cloak. When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend, his leadership of a fledgling movement seemingly at an end.

Since then, almost 2,000 years have passed. Yet today he is the central figure to the Christian faith. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings and queens that ever reigned, have not affected the life of people upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life. That's real leadership. In an age when people tend to shout louder to be heard and act more aggressively to ensure that their point of view prevails, Jesus provides us with the perfect example of leadership to show where true and lasting power lies.

With all good wishes,