We had a wonderful slate of nominees before us and a difficult set of choices to make regarding them. We are all blessed by their willingness to stand for election. They were each ready to be called upon to serve if chosen and to serve if not chosen. All of us at the convention were elected, chosen, to serve as deputies. We know the satisfaction that comes from such an honor and the difficult stewardship this responsibility entails. But the Not Chosen in every election have an important role to play as well. They have as much to say about the life, nature and ministry of our Church as the Chosen do.
The Not Chosen are subject to particular temptations. They have done all of the qualifying stints of service, they have good ideas and important insights, and they stand vulnerable as do all nominees to the harsh light of vote counts made public. Because of this, the Not Chosen are especially subject to resentment, an attitude that Carrie Fisher says is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Resentment is neither reasonable nor good but it is human and hard to resist.
The Not Chosen have been with us for a long time. Have you ever heard of Eleazer of Damascus? Probably not but he was the servant that the Patriarch Abraham expected to inherit his estate –until Isaac was born. The name Isaac means “Laughter” reflecting the joy Abraham and Sarah felt at his birth. There is a good chance that Eleazer had a different name for him, but it is not recorded. Nor do we have a record of the feelings of Hagar, the slave girl who had mothered Ishmael to Abraham at Sarah’s insistence, only to be driven out when Sarah finally conceived. And then there was Justus who had been with Jesus from the beginning and through all of Holy Week so that he qualified to replace Judas among the apostles but lost that coveted position in a roll of the dice to Matthias. All took their place among the Not Chosen.
But rather than defining them by their losses and temptations, let us be aware that the Not Chosen have a unique opportunity to be the very heart of the Christian enterprise. Because by the spirit and attitude with which they bear disappointment, resist resentment and continue to serve the Lord, the Not Chosen declare, in ways not available to the Chosen, whether or not this Church actually serves something larger than individual feelings. The Chosen have opportunity to show that we are a wise Church with good stewardship and a vigorous claim on our hopes. But the Not Chosen have the power to show that we really are a servant community and followers of the One whose management style was foot washing.
Let us be grateful for all who stand for elections. Let us be supportive of the Chosen. But let us know that we rely on the Not Chosen to show what kind of Church we really are.
Adapted from a meditation written by The Rev. Dr. Francis Wade