Over the past 3 years I have served on the OCA’s Metropolitan Council. I have been impressed with the expertise of so many of the members – the gifts, wisdom, knowledge, talents and energy which they bring to each meeting. I served a couple of times over the past 30 years in various capacities on the MC, and do believe that the Metropolitan Council has grown and improved through the years.
The Council has a responsibility to deal with some very hard issues in the life of the OCA, and consequently and unfortunately frequently has to go into Executive Session for its long discussions. This of course also means that some of what the MC does is not minuted nor made public. The amount of time spent in executive session is troubling for a church which is working to be transparent. The current way of doing business is in some ways more open than used to be done – when discussions were held only by the elite few, and decisions were presented to the general body only for their approval. Now in executive session there is passion, disagreement, and problems openly discussed with real debate and decisions being made by the body.
Since much of what we did in the recent meeting was done in Executive session, I cannot offer any more detail than you can find on the OCA’s officieal webpage (http://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-council-concludes-meeting). You can read other, unofficial ideas about the MC meeting at OCAnews.org.
I intend in this blog and the next to offer a more enigmatic view of what the MC does and how its meetings in executive session relate to Christ and the Gospel. Sometimes silence has a meaning. Elijah heard God in the still small voice, not in the roaring tumult (1 Kings 19). I beg my readers’ patience for not being able to share more directly what it is to sit in Executive Session.
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Jesus, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” (Mark 9:14-19)
It is the case, sometimes, that the disciples of Christ are in discussion with the world and with each other, and Christ is absent. He may join these discussions, wanting to know what the discussion and fuss is all about. Sometimes we have to admit in frustration that we are not able to fix the problem which is confronting the OCA, or maybe we are not willing to do what it takes to fix the problem. Christ is known to rebuke His disciples for their lack of faith. He is no doubt troubled that we are not always capable of carrying out His will. We have to accept His rebuke and seek his help to accomplish the task before us.
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him. And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:32-35)
The disciples apparently had their own version of executive session, which they apparently did not want Christ to know about. They had unminuted discussions which were not for the crowds nor for Christ’s ears. Christ is patient with His disciples, even if they allowed their discussion to stray off topic. He tries to turn such moments of human frailty into teachable moments – offering glimpses into the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ reminds us that our meetings are about service – of others, of the good of the greater church, of the needs of the faithful. Service is the topic of our meetings: We are to be servants.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. (Luke 24:13-17)
Even on the day of resurrection they disciples found things to be sad about. Discussing the events of the day did not uplift them. They were stuck in dealing with the problems of life, and the resurrection was nothing more than part of the confusion and doubt of the day. Christ still was with them as the disciples described the events of the day and the news they were wrestling with. He sees their sadness and lets them discuss it without immediately taking away the sorrow.
Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further… (Luke 24:18-28)
It was necessary for Christ to suffer these things. It is still necessary for His Body, the Church, to suffer also before entering into His glory. It is the promise of God, and the warning of Christ.
We sometimes think we have reached out destination, or perhaps just an impasse. Christ is moving on. This is not abandonment of His disciples but giving them direction to persevere. We are on the sojourn to the Kingdom of God. There may be momentary delays, and trials, and failures. It happened between Egypt and the Promised land. Forty years of wandering. Leadership can fail, but Christ’s mission and salvation do not fail. We must keep our eyes on Christ, even if for times in this world He vanishes from our sight.