- Bishop's Voice
- Contact Us / Visit
- Missional Church
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
On Wednesday, March 27, I will join with Pastor Tom Dunham at Streams in the Desert, Tucson, to preach at the Memorial of my best friend's mother, who was like a second Mom to me. Her home next door to my childhood home was a place I could find a word of welcome, fresh baked goodies and a little respite from my home filled with three sisters. At 81 she lived a good and full life. Many who will gather at her Memorial will not be actively connected to a church, but as those of us in the office of pastor often find ourselves, we are blessed to be offered an occasion to share the good news of God's love in Jesus that really is inescapable as we travel into the Holy days of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The familiar, but the awesome story that unfolds through the common elements of a towel and basin, bread and wine, a garden, a trial, a cross, and a tomb still carry power when we stare death in its face.
I have been thinking about this a lot in light of the recent trip Barb and I were privileged to take to Rome. Some of you may have heard that we were blessed to share in the experience of being in St. Peter's Square when the white smoke came out of the Sistine Chapel chimney announcing the election of St. Francis.
But what stood out most for me on this trip, more than this global and rare event, were the images of our forbearers. For those who have been to Rome, you know the churches are magnificent. I had to wrestle with my own historical memory of how funds were raised and lives were exploited to construct these magnificent structures. However, there is something to be said to stand in a place where Peter, because of his faith, or Paul because of his faith, was martyred.
In St. Peter's Square one sees Peter holding the keys to the kingdom symbolizing the authority that rests in apostolic succession, but rather than debate the interpretation of Jesus' words to Peter, I kept coming back to this is the place where Peter, who we often make jokes about, stood in the middle of the emperor's race track, facing an obelisk, a pagan symbol from Egypt, begging to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Savior. Then you move to the right as you face the Basilica and the Apostle Paul greets you holding a scroll and a sword, the scroll representing his letter to the Romans and the sword representing his beheading at choosing to pledge allegiance to Jesus rather than Caesar.
Traveling just a short way from there we ventured to St. Paul's Basilica Outside the Walls. Again the Apostle with his book and his sword greet us, as a reminder that this is the place where his head was separated from his body. But it is inside that I found my heart most moved. As one stands staring at the ceiling to floor artwork, you notice at the top of the walls running as a decorative trim, pictures of popes from Peter to Benedict (Francis had not been elected yet). And again though I am not an expert in Church history, I do know that just like among our collegiums, some were excellent and some not so much. However, what struck me were the pictures of popes from the first three centuries prior to Emperor Constantine's conversion. Around each of the depictions of the popes from that era were red circles. Being naïve and curious I asked a good Lutheran question, "What does this mean?" The answer, "Those were all martyred in office."
How privileged we are to have the freedoms we know. But as we travel through the days of Holy Week and then into the glorious season of Easter may we always be mindful of what it cost, not just Jesus, but those who dared to take the message of God's love in Jesus for all people outside of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I have to believe what gave them the courage to count the cost and endure whatever may come was the very real experience of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. May the passion of those who have gone before us fill each of us in our proclamation and witness!
Blessed Holy Week and Beyond,
2013 Grand Canyon Synod Assembly
This year our synod assembly will be held at Love of Christ Lutheran Church, Mesa, AZ, June 14-15. We will gather under the theme of "Always Being Made New" and continue the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ELCA and the Grand Canyon Synod. Click here to be redirected to assembly information page.
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013 under the theme, "Always being made new." What God is doing through us here at home and around the world is worth celebrating. As you embark in ministry during this anniversary year, take a look back at the people and events that have shaped us as a church while looking toward the future together anew.
If anyone is in Christ...
We are deeply rooted. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is still comparatively new as a church body, and yet our roots are much deeper than our 25 years together. The taproot of our life extends through the histories of predecessor churches in the United States, through the formative witness of the 16th century evangelical reformers and their confessional writings, to the Scriptures and the word of Christ. Our life is in Jesus Christ. We are deeply rooted in his word of forgiveness and the promises of God’s steadfast love and mercy. The word of Christ dwells in us richly. God nourishes us as one body in Jesus Christ with companions from around the globe who meet us at Christ’s table of grace.
...there is a new creation
We are being made new every day. In Jesus Christ we are not unchanged. What God does in Christ is as radical as the death and resurrection of baptism, where new creatures in Christ rise to live “no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” God is bringing that new creation to life among us in the ministry of reconciliation. In that service we no longer see each other as we did before. We are no longer strangers, competitors or enemies to each other. We are beloved companions in one body, restored to a communion where the rich diversity of our experiences, wisdom and abilities serve the common good in Christ. The new creation in Christ rises to life among us every day.
Click here to read Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's letter regarding the 25th anniversary of the ELCA.
Click here to find 25th anniversary resources for your congregation.