I spent most of the day in meetings of the Anglican Theological Review Board of Directors (and the meeting continues tomorrow). For every hour that my other editorial boards devote to meetings, ATR devotes five or six.

Toward late morning, though, I snuck out of the Editorial Committee meeting to preside at St. Jerome’s Day mass. It all went fine, and I’ll tuck the sermon into the Extended section. Then I tried to get away for a few hours with Pippa, but the afternoon meeting ran longer than I’d hoped. I fixed dinner and set her up with Ghostbusters.

Now I’ll try to get some sleep before tomorrow’s meeting (preceded by eight-o’clock-on-Saturday-morning mass. . .).

Anderson Chapel of St. John the Divine, Seabury-Western
2 Tim 3:14-17/Ps 19:7-11/Luke 24:44-48
September 30, 2005

Be it granted that Jerome was an irascible cuss, vain and difficult, poisonous in his rhetoric and with a skewed perspective on women. As difficult and cranky as Jerome surely was, I wonder whether our image of him has not been amplified by a tendency in the church, especially (I think) the modern church, to undervalue learning in favor of more democratic characteristics of its leaders. To put it another way: one of the characteristics that makes Jerome offend at least some of his readers was that he was brilliant, a Christian intellectual who actually cared ardently about the truth that had laid hold of him.

That truth, however, calls for all of us to exercise our capacities to the utmost – even when that causes us stress and pain, even when we’re working with fewer intellectual gifts than St. Jerome.The Law of the Lord may revive the soul, and the decrees of the Lord may make wise the simple – but they avail nothing for people who refuse to learn them. Scripture may be useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness, but presumably Scripture serves those purposes best when people actually read it.

Indeed, we honor the Lord who is the way, and the truth, and the life, when we apply our strongest efforts to understanding all that we can, as thoroughly as we can. we have been entrusted with leadership in the community of people whose souls we comfort and counsel, whose prospect of eternity takes a shape affected by our ministries of preaching, of pastoral care. We ought no more presume that we’ll be effective ministers of the Gospel just because of our hearts are in the right place than we would trust a physician who skipped her anatomy classes during med school, just because she’s a companionable, attractive neighbor. Our ministry isn’t brain surgery, isn’t rocket science – but Scripture reminds us that the God who calls us to ministry in the church calls us to stretch, to extend our faculties.

The God who calls us away from our cubicles and countertops, from our fields and fishnets, calls us not to rest content with warm-hearted mediocrity in serving God. If you are capable of analyzing a sales contract, of organizing and managing a birthday party for a dozen pre-teens, if you can debate the caliber of a Supreme Court nominee or assess the strengths and weaknesses of a recent movie, you can set those talents to work towards a richer, fuller appreciation of the Bible, and of the truths that our teachers have inferred from the Bible. Spiritual laziness substitutes passive cheeriness for diligent study and squanders the opportunity to multiply your talents; that would really tick Jerome off. Come, rather, and meet Jerome on his terms, learn from him, and offer these weeks and years in order to prepare a room in which Jesus may meet you, may open your mind to understand the Scriptures, so that you and everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.


1 thought on “Board

  1. Scripture may be useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness, but presumably Scripture serves those purposes best when people actually read it.

    I deeply admire your ability to be this witty. My sermons tend to be distressingly earnest. My poems know the art of making people laugh and then surprising them with something that’s actually important; maybe I need to figure out how to adapt that skill.

    Anyway. I’ve been thinking about the necessary balance in the rabbinate between scholarship and pastoral care/ministry (and synagogue administratorship, more often than not, though that’s a separate issue). I’ve heard it said that rabbinic education values scholarship overmuch, and that we ought to put more emphasis on learning to care for our flocks. So I’m tickled to see your sermon argue in the other direction (not that you’re speaking to a room filled with baby rabbis, I recognize, but surely the parallel stands).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *