Scripture: Matthew 5:1-2
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying,
I imagine myself in the crowd coming toward Jesus. I notice his movements out of the corner of my eye; see him observe us and our coming toward him, see him turn his body and walk away from us.
It's not a rude turning away - it's prayer.
Everything and everyone wants a response, a reaction, our attention.
The movement of Jesus' body in relation to the crowd and to the landscape feels to me as the movement of soulful leadership.
The movement is a blessing: to lead, you don't always have to be in the center of the crowd, in the midst of all the anxiety, attached to everyone's emotional life. Instead it is your work oftentimes to notice it, to be humble about what you offer it, to detach yourself from it for a time and to walk away.
The movement away from the crowd is a movement toward God. After this line of scripture, Jesus is about to speak strange things about blessing like, "blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." The conviction to say such a thing comes from a centered-in-God place.
Again I am imagining myself as part of the crowd. Noticing Jesus walk away and up that holy mountain, I arrive there at some distance, following the slow lead of his body up the mountain, pausing with him as he takes a deep breath at the top and waiting as he turns and sits down. I notice my heart has slowed down and I am breathing deeper as I take a seat with the others, feeling like we've already receive the blessing we came to Jesus seeking as he begins to teach us.
Unfolding God, guide us in being soulful people; courageous and humble enough to step away from the crowd and take the time needed to connect with you. And then, when it is time, to turn, to sit, to teach out of our centering in you. Amen.
Lindsey Peterson is a General Synod delegate and is the Designated Term Pastor at the South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA.