Author: Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.

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Sheep eating pasture behind a fence

Pasture, Green Pasture

We lament the loss of the world we used to have. We fear for our jobs, or perhaps we are already dealing with the bureaucratic and financial struggles of having lost them. We grieve the illness and death of loved ones. Into this pain and disruption this scripture speaks assurance.

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a woman cutting French bread into slices

The Breaking of Bread and the Prayers

I don’t know about you, but if you are like most of the Christians I know in most of the United States right now, you are doing some form of online or distanced worship. Maybe your church is using Facebook or Zoom. Maybe it is recording services (with appropriately distanced participants) and putting them on YouTube. Maybe you are doing drive-in church services in the parking lot. Maybe your church is mailing bulletins and meditation materials to congregants.

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A salt shaker on a counter

If That Salt Has Lost its Savor, It Ain’t Got Much in its Favor

We are to be the peacemakers, the meek, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we are found in a place, our exercise of those virtues should be just like salt; we should change the flavor of the whole dish.

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Bread at a bakery

Share Your Bread

At the beginning of this passage, the coming of God into the situation Isaiah addresses definitely means challenge, not comfort.

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Three signs on a fence reading "Don't give up, you are not alone, you matter"

Healing All Who Are Oppressed

So here we have a full-orbed picture of what a life of servant leadership looks like. It is empowered by the Spirit, brings justice and healing to those oppressed by sin and sorrow, and witnesses to others about the saving grace of Christ.

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A field of reeds at sunset

Justice for the Bruised Reeds

I don’t know about you, but I suspect that, like me, there have been many times in your life when you have felt like a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick. I suspect that there have been times when those you love and those whom you influence have felt like bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks.

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top down view of table with silver crucifix between a glass of water and a bread loaf.

He Eats with Sinners and Looks for Sheep

But it’s easy for us to place that in the past, blame the Pharisees, and not think about how we today as Christians decide who and what is clean and unclean—how we expect God to work only in certain places and among certain kinds of people. Do we limit God’s grace to our own churches, our own families, our own countries, our own social classes? The parable Jesus tells about the lost sheep is very clear: wherever there are sinners, Jesus says, he will find them and love them and offer them grace.

And since that’s all of us, it ought to be a very comforting thought.

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The Rest of the Story

The Bible is important for Christians to understand, but it’s not always easy to understand. The great news is that we don’t have to start from scratch. We can read trusted commentaries and speak to wise friends. We can listen to sermons that break open the Word so we can grasp its applicability to our lives. For those receiving these Life for Leaders devotions, we can have Mark Roberts explain Paul’s labyrinthine arguments to us.

But besides all these external helps, there is another piece of good news as we seek to search the Scriptures. The lists of kings and the genealogies and the theological arguments are best understood in the context of the larger story the Bible is telling.

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Nativity figures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph with halos

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Jesus Christ knows our toil—the toil the Preacher complained about in Ecclesiastes—because he too has lived it. He too has experienced it. He too has suffered, and he has triumphed over that suffering. Consider that as you go about your work today.

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The Bible open to Ecclesiastes


We find that our Preacher is actually not very happy about his life or his work. He finally in Ecclesiastes 3:22 comes to the conclusion that we might as well enjoy work—not because it matters to God, but because, although we know God exists and is in charge, we have no idea whether God actually intends anything better for us than our current toil. There is a chance—more than a chance, in fact—that your work and your leadership really do matter to God—matter on that deep level where we all hunger to know that we are loved, known, and guided.

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