The following is a reflection on Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, the second lesson properly appointed for Easter 7B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
With Judas’ demise, the disciples were down to eleven. Twelve is a good biblical number though. A number with significance. So, it seemed good and proper to get the disciples back to “twelve.”
There was a position to fill.
So, the eleven disciples polled everyone in the church to see what they thought their strengths and weaknesses were, and what they hoped for in a leader. They compiled those thoughts in a beautifully done, glossy, profile, and mailed it out to people who they thought would fit the bill. They asked for resume’s and essay/answers of six questions. They did a series of phone interviews prior to going out and traveling all over Judea making visitations of prospective candidates in their local setting. They graded them on their preaching style, their administrative acumen, and their pastoral presence to those in need. Then, after compiling a final slate, they cast a deciding vote. It took two years, but finally they had…
That’s not what they did. (Gosh getting it that wrong is pretty embarrassing…)
They actually took the position to the Crown Appointments Commission in Jerusalem, and a series of church officials and bureaucrats put together a short list for the monarch to choose from. They based their decisions on churchmanship, experience, and political viability. And then, the Church Times published the…
Oh, darn it all.
I got it wrong again.
OK, let me do this slowly. They came up with a short list of criteria. And then they cast lots, so that it wouldn’t be them who chose, but God.
Because discernment is about listening to God, and seeing who God is calling.
Biblical leadership was never based on resume’s or experience. God called Moses, an eighty year-old shepherd, who had murder on his record. He called Aaron, who had great experience making little golden calf statues. He called David, the youngest son, and also a shepherd. He called Mary, a little girl. He called Peter, a fisherman. He called Simon the Zealot. And Paul, a Pharisee.
God never calls the dashing, young, energetic person with twenty years of experience in the field who can speak five languages.
He calls ordinary people to do his extraordinary work. And it’s God who does the calling.
As you may notice from my words above, I’m not the biggest fan of the “call” process in The Episcopal Church. Though, I’m not just picking on my own denomination. Many ‘discernment’ processes fall under similar rubrics. They’re too long, too time consuming, and they cost way, way, way too much money. If all that time and all that money was always spent on calling the perfect match for each pastoral role in the church, then maybe I wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on.
But, we see the evidence of poor matches all the time.
Of course there are success stories too, but I think we could get the same results from a much, much more nimble process. And, we’d have more time and more resources to do the important work that God calls us to do.
Though really, what I’d like to see—regardless of the process—is a church looking at discernment as not something where you look for the brightest and best, but where the call of God is penultimate. And, we could use profiles, and resume’s, and site visits to do that.
Or, we could use lots.
Because, really it’s about God.