July 11, 2012

The Hidden Kingdom

“All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables…This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables…’” (Matt 13:34).

The gospels do not hide the fact that the disciples were repeatedly frustrated by their inability to understand what Jesus was getting at. They often had to ask him to explain his parables after they left the crowds. But in today’s gospel—the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven—he is speaking plainly about the mysterious, surprising, hidden quality of the Kingdom of God.  A tiny black seed, buried in the ground…and it becomes a magnificent tree. Put the two side by side and it’s a wonder the two are related. Or yeast: a brownish-grey goo, “hidden” in flour, left alone in darkness and warmth, and it grows, rises to become a beautiful loaf of bread. We’re so used to these simple miracles that we don’t think about them. 

The evangelist Matthew quotes from Psalm 78:2, written by the prophet Asaph (actually, he quotes and modifies the Greek version, Psalm 77). It’s worthwhile going back to read the whole psalm, because it’s an edgy reflection on God’s guidance, teaching, uplifting—and rebuking—of Israel over the centuries.  This is the psalm that gives us one of the Fathers’ favorite references to the Eucharist, “Man ate of the bread of the angels” (78:25). It’s also the source of the Paschal verse, “The Lord awoke as from sleep” (78:65). But mainly the psalm is a reminder that God is here. No matter what the circumstances of Israel’s life, He is with them.  They need to remember how he has been with them in the past through the most difficult times. They need to speak about this with each other. They need to teach this history to their children. When bad times come, as they surely will, they will be strengthened by practice to keep His ways and to see His abiding presence among them. Even when it is hidden to others.

Metropolitan Council Meets with Synod Members

In a conference call last night chaired by Archbishop Nathaniel, the Metropolitan Council and a number of bishops met to review developments concerning Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation and plans for maintaining a smooth transition for him and for the administration of the OCA.  Since the call concerned legal and personnel matters it was almost entirely “executive session” to preserve confidentiality. This will annoy readers looking for more information, and I know there have been comments on the internet that this is some sort of Syosset plot, that things should not be shrouded in secrecy, that we should have learned better after the past few years. I understand that, especially since I myself was one of those calling for accountability and transparency. But unfortunately, professional confidentiality when legally required is just part of the fiduciary responsibility of MC members. What I can say, and what any MC member can say, is that we have been apprised of the situation, we are bound by confidentiality but we can attest that there is no conspiracy. Of course such denials will only inspire die-hard conspiracy theorists to read the tea-leaves more carefully, but we’ll have to live with that. As a former Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “You sometimes have to risk being misunderstood.”