The Bishop’s Charge to Diocesan Convention November, 1988

My charge to you this year is two-fold. The charge comes from something that Don Armentrout shared with us last night at din­ner. He said that unity is both a gift and a task. So first, my brothers and sisters, I charge you to receive the gift of unity.


That may be the most difficult part of this two-fold charge. Receiving is not something that we are used to doing; at least receiving without any strings at­tached, without any promises, without any reservations, without anything that has to do with our own merit. We always want to earn our salvation, it would seem.


And yet a Lutheran emphasis that we need to be made constant­ly aware of as we were last night, is that our salvation has very little to do with anything that we do, or say, or are. It was and is freely given as a gift. The gift is there and waiting to be received. We can’t earn the gift that is freely given.


The gift is unity


The gift is unity. Our Lord’s life and his ministry symbolized that unity. He did not look for unifor­mity. He called a diverse group of disciples to come together and to celebrate their diversity, to focus their attention on that which He proclaimed and that which He taught of the kingdom of God. He did not tell them to set aside their culture, but He called them to a greater loyalty and said that the loyalty that we subscribe to, the loyalty that we teach, is to the kingdom of God and this loyalty transcends any other loyalty, be it family, be it culture, be it race, be it community, be it our own personal causes and commitments.


Throughout the course of His ministry, Jesus had to correct and to teach where there were loyalties in conflict with the ultimate loyalty to God’s kingdom.


That was the gift. It was a gift that was given. It was a gift that was received. It was a gift that has been a part of the life of the Church ever since.


We look to that gift: we remember that gift and that is what we have been doing this past year as we looked at unity being revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, in a common Creed that is a united confession of faith, in the Sacraments which are symbols of unity and finally in the office and the ministry of a bishop in which you all share.


So the gift is there. Would that we could, and would, receive it daily, freely, openly and gracefully.


Give it away


The gift, however, brings with it the need to give the gift away, again and again and again            because the gift is love and that’s the second part of the charge.


Last night Don mentioned that unity is also a task. We have been about that task for these last two days. We are not called to set aside our differences, but rather to talk about them openly. We are not called to set aside our diver­sity.


We were created as unique individuals and children of a loving God who created each of us as a special person, as someone very precious.


But the gift brings with it the task and the task is love: to give not out of obligation but out of a sense of being loved. The task is to share. Sharing is the glue of unity.


The task begins with us in­dividually in our relationship with Jesus Christ, our most immediate relationships, our families, our children, our spouses, our parents, our ex­tended family and the com­munities of which we are a part. The context for this primary uni­ty is the extended family that we call the Church.


Such a task is characterized by the hard work of openness, of honesty, of repenting when we have done something wrong, of admitting our shortcomings, of not looking to other persons to correct all of our problems for us but beginning to share in the task of sharing itself.


The hard work that produces the love which is the gift and task is trust. We as a Diocese need to learn how to trust one another in deeper ways.


We need to learn to move beyond the posturing, the self-aggrandizement of parochialism and regionalism in whatever form, We need to move beyond selfishness and self–justification recalling and recognizing that we are “justified by grace through faith”.


Faith is sharing the love that has been given to us freely as gift, the gift that is modeled in Scrip­tures, spoken to in the Creeds and experienced in the Sacraments. It has to do with how we trust one another and open ourselves to one another to receive so that we might give.


Such receiving and giving is difficult. It brings with it pain; it brings with it a constant need for reassessment; it brings with it a recognition that the task is ongo­ing and never complete. The war­ning is that when we think that we have arrived and completed the task, we are in trouble.


The task is Christian living, Christian living that calls us to be with and for one another in ways that matter deeply.


And so as we conclude this con­vention I charge you in the year ahead to remember the gift, to be open to Jesus Christ the lover, the lover of our souls. I charge you to take up the task of unity; to work toward the carrying and passing on and sharing of that love born of a deepened trust and an ability to risk with one another in new ways. Risk honesty and open­ness.


If we are able to do that in an in­tentional and conscious way in the next year, we will gather one year from now a strengthened and renewed people united more deeply as followers of’ Jesus Christ.


This entry was posted in Articles by Bishop Anderson, Publications, Sermons and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.