Blog

from the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

“As the Conference of Bishops, we call our worshiping communities to pray for raising up leaders for this church. We ask that the petitions of every worship service include a plea that new lay leaders, deacons and pastors be identified, invited, encouraged and supported in responding to God’s call to ministry.” [adopted March 4, 2017]

Please read and share this special appeal from Bishop Gafkjen in its entirety.

Victory is ours! Victory is ours! Through God who loves us.

I am intrigued and inspired by the calendric fact that Easter is longer than Lent.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). While we tend to focus on the 40 fasting days of Lent, when the Sundays along the way are included, Lent always includes exactly 46 calendar days.

Easter is not just one day, though we tend to think of it that way. It begins with Easter Sunday, of course, but it doesn’t end until Pentecost Sunday, ever and always exactly 50 days later.

50 is, of course, greater than 46. In other words, Easter always wins!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…where there is hatred, let me sow love.

This prayer, attributed to the 12th/13th century Saint Francis of Assisi, came to mind when I heard about the spate of bomb threats to Jewish communities across the country last week. And now, this deplorable behavior has found its way to the territory of this synod: the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis received a bomb threat on Monday, February 27. This behavior, like all hateful, threatening, or violent actions that target individuals, as well as a whole group of human beings, is simply wrong. It’s sinful. It needs to be called out, confronted, and corrected as much as it is in our power to do so. In doing so, we stand in solidarity and support with our Jewish sisters and brothers.

But that’s not enough.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

(8th Commandment)

As we move through this 500th year since the beginning of the Reformation, many of us are renewing our acquaintance with various writings and resources from and about that medieval movement that changed the church and impacted the world. A great place to begin is with Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. A great time to begin is the season of Lent.

Local faith communities might shape Wednesday worship around sections of the catechism or add a brief time for exploration and discussion of the catechism before or after worship. Families could briefly read and discuss parts of it once or twice a week before saying grace at dinner. Individuals might slowly read through, meditate on, and journal about the catechism in devotional time two or three times a week.

Cross-Marked and Spirit-Sealed Children of God

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:3

In mid-January I experienced a distinct pleasure that I have had only a handful of times over the last six and a half years of ministry as bishop: I preached and presided at the baptism of Xavier Alan Burkholder, the son of two of this synod’s pastors, Joshua Burkholder and Carolyn Lesmeister. Over the last half dozen years, I have presided at Communion and preached for countless worship services across and beyond this territory. I have presided at somewhere between 35 and 40 commissionings, consecrations, and ordinations. All of these experiences bring me deep joy as a pastor and bishop. But every time I pour the water and Word over the head of a new sister or brother in Christ, I am brought back again to the very essence of who I am and who we are as baptized and beloved, cross-marked and Spirit-sealed children of God. This is the foundation for all our worship, ministry, and service in the world.

Connect

Where every member is a missionary, every pastor is a mission director, and every congregation is a mission center.