Friday, February 19, 2010

Bishop coming for a visit: remembering connections

I do not have a deep ministry pedigree. Sometimes when I attend Lutheran events, I see pastors who are from families of long lines of pastors. That pastor could be 3rd, 4th or 5th generation clergy. The pastors that they know have similar backgrounds--and they are connected through historic Christian institutions--colleges, seminaries, congregations, synods can sometimes see long lines of relatives and friends. This is pedigree. It seems to be destiny as much as call that ministry is continued and celebrated.

I do not have this ministry pedigree. I know it doesn't matter to God that I am not from a long line of pastors. I am confident in my calling, even though I'm not necessarily sure where God wants me to be or what God wants me to do. I generally trust that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing during any period of time, and that God will provoke my own spirit when the time comes to search. Not having a ministry pedigree, however, makes me wonder about my place sometimes. How does God work in the midst of bureaucracy and pedigree? I do not know, only that I trust that God can work in any situation.

Next Sunday, Bishop Rob Hofstad from the Southwestern Washington Synod will come and preach at First Lutheran Community Church. Bishop Hofstad is one of the few people in ministry where I can make the statement "we go way back." Pedigree allows this kind of statement on a regular basis. Bishop Hofstad was my pastor during the four years I lived in Olympia, Washington (at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd), before I went off to college in the Midwest. We've kept some communication over the years as I moved toward and established my work in ordained ministry in the ELCA all over the Midwest. Bishop Hofstad is a gentle, balanced and wise soul. He is joyful, but not gregarious. He holds a deep faith and holds the faith of others in high esteem and care. I invited him to come preach at FLCC for a couple of reasons--one is selfish, the other is idealistic and helpful. The selfish reason is that after 20 years in the Midwest, I have returned to my land of origin. Bishop Hofstad shared the Gospel in a way that had an impact on me and in some way helped prepared me for what I am doing now, and he has offered encouragement on the way. To share worship with him in a congregation I serve feels like a milestone, or even coming full circle to a degree. It will be my extra pleasure to be in worship next Sunday.

The idealistic and helpful reason for Bishop Hofstad to join us is that it is deeply important that First Lutheran Community Church remember its connections with our Lutheran Christian sisters and brothers across the Southwestern Washington Synod and the rest of the ELCA and world. I am reminded of the importance of recognizing our connections as Bishop Hofstad is returning to Washington after nearly three weeks in Europe on an ecumenical delegation, meeting with various world Christian leaders, including Pope Benedict in Vatican City. Bishop Hofstad is not any more important than any one else in our portion of the Body of Christ, he only serves a particular calling. To me, Bishop Hofstad serves as a reminder of the meaning of our sisters and brothers in Christ--that we are called to encourage one another, offer our ideas and resources to one another, and build one another up. Bishop Hofstad doesn't have the all the answers to make those connections, yet he serves as a reminder of our particular callings from God in the world and that we are in this service to God and neighbor together.

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