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“Only Morons Serve on Vestry” Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany - January 29, 2023




I would like to thank everyone for being here this morning, on this Annual Meeting Sunday. For those of you visiting or unfamiliar with what that means – for one thing it means a shorter sermon - but it means once a year in the life of every Episcopal Church we hold an Annual Meeting in which we, as a community of faith, do things like…review and reflect on the previous year’s ministries, look at the present year’s budget, thank members of the Vestry who have served their three year term and elect new members to the Vestry and new Delegates to our annual Diocesan Convention. “What is a Vestry?”


Well….I’m glad you asked.


The Vestry is the governance body of each individual Episcopal Parish - each member elected to serve for three years and serves the church by helping us maintain financial integrity, care for our campus and facilities, and assists the clergy leadership of the church in discerning steps related to our various ministries. “Jared,” you may ask, “is that the official definition of a Vestry drawn from the approved Canons of the Episcopal Church?”


“Of course not!”

“Why not?”

“Because looking at the official Canons of the Episcopal Church makes me want to drive a sharp #2 pencil through my left eyeball.”

“Well, aren’t they important?”

“Of course they’re important!”

“So, what do you do when you need to know something about the Canons, Fr. Jared?”

“I LISTEN to wiser people than myself who serve on Vestry and we come to a decision together.” “So, you don’t rule St. Andrew’s with an authoritarian iron fist?”

“No.”

“And the Vestry isn’t in charge either?”

“No.”

“So how is the church led?”

“Well, at its best, it’s a community discerning the best they can, where the Spirit of Christ might be leading them.”

“Sounds tricky, Fr. Jared.”

“It can be.”

“So, what kind of person serves on Vestry?”

“Awwww….another good question and one that will take me out of this contrived dialogue and into what St. Paul is telling the church in Corinth this morning.”


There’s a term Paul uses…it’s important to Paul…he uses it four times in this section of the letter. It’s a word that jumps off the page…or stumbles off the page might be truer to its form. It’s a word Paul uses to describe the message of the cross, the message of Christ, and how people following Christ look (and should look) to the rest of the world. Are you ready? Here’s the word.


FOOLISH.


FOOLISH.


In the original Greek it is moronia, from which we derive the word MORON in our language. So, I have decided to title the sermon this morning… “Only Morons Serve on the Vestry.”


Now, if that pricks your ears and rubs you the wrong way…if that makes you feel a little tense or even offends you…well….I’d like to welcome you – because you’ve just entered the heart of Paul’s words.


You see, when Paul was writing to the church in Corinth – he was addressing, mainly, two people groups within the church. The first were the Jews – those raised within the Jewish tradition and culture. Now, when the Jews thought about the messiah they desired from that person – signs, particularly signs of power – signs that revealed how powerful that person was, how powerful YHWH was, and these signs would prove to the rest of the world how they were going to be placed in a position of power and privilege among the nations. Power and Privilege. So, a crucified messiah, a suffering servant, a man who fell victim to a humiliating death at the hands of a foreign occupier – that couldn’t be the messiah. And, evidently, even those who began to embrace the way of Jesus…still wrestled with this idea of power and privilege. They still wanted a piece of it…right?


The other group Paul is writing to are the Gentiles (more directly the Greeks). A culture immersed in philosophical speculation. So much so…that the celebrities of that culture were indeed philosophers and people who were masters in the art of rhetoric. Eloquent speakers who could talk for hours upon hours weaving endless arguments with one another over the smallest of details. That’s what wisdom looked like! It didn’t look like a poor Galilean peasant turned itinerant Rabbi who when he taught – spurned that kind of speculation and instead taught like this… “Once upon a time…” Or if he departed from that said things like, “Blessed are the poor….blessed are the merciful…the peacekeepers…blessed are those who mourn…” That’s not wisdom…And…and for the Greek mind…God, if God was anything…had to be unmoved, had to be removed from the struggles, the emotional turmoil, the suffering of this world – anything less would compromise divinity. God wouldn’t take on flesh and enter more deeply into the grit and grandeur of what it means to be a human being.


No power, according to this world. No privilege, according to this world. No wisdom, according to this world. And Paul says….it’s foolishness….it’s foolishness…. “But don’t you see,” he goes on to say… “God chose what is weak to outlast the powers of this world, God chose what is foolish to subvert the wisdom of this world, God chose the things that are not to bring down the things that are.”


Foolishness….you bet. But we’re called to be fools. Fools in Christ. We’re called to be morons.


The Church is not a royal yacht line, traveling from port to port, consuming the finer things of life. The Church is a ship of fools, carried by the current of God’s love, rescuing those who’ve been shanghaied by the storms of life. So, to be a Vestry member or a Delegate is not to take on a position of power, or privilege, or to rest in the laurels of savvy wisdom. These roles do not exist to pad a resume, fleece pockets, or receive accolades. They exist to model servanthood - to surrender power, to surrender privilege, and to embrace the foolishness of Christ – to help us make a difference in each other’s lives and in the life of our community.


A little later, I encourage all of you to do something.


After our Annual Meeting concludes. Please go up to one of our current Vestry members or Delegates, or to one of those whose time of service has come to a close, or to one who is running today – elected or not. Just go up to them. Shake their hand. Look them in the eye. And say, “Thank you for your service. And I am so grateful that St. Andrew’s….has a moron like you.”


Amen.




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