Yesterday, on the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem, our Rector, Bob Trache, was elected the next bishop of Atlanta.
Bob is not here today. Along with Sue Eaves, Bob is in Jerusalem–undoubtedly with a case of the butterflies like you wouldn’t believe. Mary Lou tells me that she and Bob are pretty shaken up.
Now, I was planning on preaching on the life and ministry of James of Jerusalem today. Since June, when I noticed that this Sunday would be the Patronal Feast Day, I planned to speak on James’s ministry as the first elected bishop in the Church, the first bishop of Jerusalem, the putative author of the Letter of James in the New Testaments, and without question, the Patron Saint of this Parish. I was going to mention how he was martyred for his proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord, being thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple in 62 AD. I was going to assert that while we don’t know why the founders of this parish chose to call it St. James’s–our ongoing refrain of ‘Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only’ is a powerful testimony to the spirit of St. James at this parish.
Therefore, how amazingly fitting that on the day we planned to give thanks to St. James of Jerusalem for his patronage of this church, Bob gets elected bishop while in Jerusalem. But as wild as that seems, such an amazing happenstance and synchronicity, let me put forth the obvious question, on many of our hearts: do we give thanks to God for this news? Do your hearts flutter with mixed feelings about this as much as mine does?
In all frankness, my heart is uneasy. I was hoping that Bob would be here for a while more. I was hoping to learn from him in the next few years, to see how he does things, to follow his lead.
And now they’ve gone and elected him bishop.
But you know what? I am thankful that Bob is going to be a bishop. Indeed, even though I have feared that my prayers might actually coincide with the will of the Holy Spirit, I have prayed that Bob would get elected in the last few weeks. I have prayed that he would become a bishop—because the Episcopal Church desperately needs good bishops. And Bob will be one. Bob will be a good apostle.
Not an easy one. Not a lightweight. Not a coddler. But a shaker-upper. Certainly, getting all shaken up seems to be a way of life at this parish these days—doesn’t it? Just look at the history of this place in the last six years.
Remember how prophetic it seemed when Bishop Frade asked the Honduran mission team what they would do if they returned to find their church destroyed, just before they went home to a burned down St. James’s? Or consider the shake up of last Sunday and this Sunday. The one-two punch to the life of this place. Even if you disagreed with his politics–and I did in no uncertain terms –I have been amazed by the chord Patch Adams managed to strike with the people of this parish, young and old.
Despite himself, perhaps, Patch struck a prophetic note here at St. James’s. Because he had us all asking ourselves, “but what about my discipleship?” He made me question the depth of my discipleship to the core. He made me turn the spotlight on my life to examine just how much am I “a doer and not a hearer only?” It’s funny, but Patch says that he is not a Christian. Yet, ladies and gentleman, if he and I actually stood trial, accused of “Being A Christian,” I think he’s the one who’d actually get convicted—based on the evidence. Even though I might plead “guilty” to the charge of following Christ, by my many pious words, I’m not sure I’d actually get convicted–based on the way I live my life.
Well,the bell has sounded. The fight is on.
Our discipleship is going to be put to the test in the months to come. In just a few short months, Bob won’t be our rector anymore. He will go to Atlanta, and he will be consecrated as their Bishop.
Here at St. James’s, we will need to come together and begin to search for a new rector. We will enter into a time of transition–one of those times when nothing seems certain, nor sure, nor comfortable. I don’t know about you, but this shakes me up. I don’t quite understand how this is going to affect me. I don’t quite understand how this is going to affect us, our church, our mutual life together.
But what I do see, on this day when we give thanks to our patron, St. James, the Brother of Our Lord, that the way we get through this new phase, will be far more important than what we say we believe. I see this news as another of God’s Lightning Bolts. I see this as a chance to examine our discipleship under the bright light of God’s heavenly fire. I see this as a chance to be bigger than our worries, and stronger than our fears. I see this as a call to get up onto the roof of the Temple, just like St. James of Jerusalem, and profess that Our Savior and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. And then to get down from that height, and do what God asks of us–namely, to die unto ourselves and our selfish concerns, to pick up our crosses, and to rejoice in the path of Christ.
In the words of St. James,
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete.