calendar May 4, 2007 in Bishop messages

Released and Connected

Living in God’s amazing grace – ELCA tagline

"I love this theme. It is as clear a declaration of our core theology as anything I have seen, and it is a direction for our life together as a Synod," Bishop Claire S. Burkat said in her address to the 2007 Assembly.

Unpacking the phrase "We are living in God’s amazing grace," the bishop finds "inspiration for our journey together as the Church."

We – The bishop noted that she had been traveling the Synod this last year reminding Lutherans that "We can do so muich more together than we can do alone." As a Synod "we can be more and bless more than any one church or faithful believer can do alone. It is not a matter of addition, it is multiplication!"

Living – We are called to mission right here in our five-county area. Our Synod has a rich missional legacy from the days of Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, whose charge was the Church must be planted. "We are to bless and thank and laugh, and praise and love and depend on God in whom we live and move and have our being," the bishop said. "Living abundantly means living in gratitude."

God’s – All that we have and the entire cosmos belong to God, the bishop noted. "All of our plans and all of our dreams, and all of our schedules and all of our work are nothing without GodiLs blessing. But look for God in the secret and sometimes invisible places. Jesus sees and blesses the little ones, the sick, the hurting, the shunned, the shamed," she said.

Amazing – Christians, who base their hope in Christ’s resurrection, must by definition be open to God’s ability to surprise and amaze us, the bishop said. " God does not sit around and wait for us to discover God," she said. "In the scriptures, we see God is always active and dynamic, calling us to something deeper and more amazing than our imaginations could ever dream up on our own."

Grace – "It’s all about grace, isn’t it?" the bishop asked the Assembly. "I do not have to do anything to win God’s love for me. I do not have to pray exactly right, or remember to confess every wrong I’ve done. The asking and the confessing to God are for our sake not GodiLs. God comes to us in pure grace. We will never be able to appreciate this gift fully here on earth."

Living this theme out in our Synod allows Lutherans here – leaders, members, congregations and agencies – to be released to further God’s mission while staying connected and strengthened by the partnership of fellow believers, the bishop said.

She highlighted several examples of this polarity in ministries across the Synod:

  • Lutheran Disaster Relief: Almost one-quarter of our congregations have sent volunteers to assist with Gulf hurricane relief in the last 2 years, and many more have assisted with local flooding. LDR volunteers are working with partners across the region to plan for potential disasters in our area.
  • Helping Hands Day: An Upper Bucks conference event started 13 years ago by Deb Detwiler, AIM at Trinity, Perkasie has grown into a Synod-wide servant day for youth in grades 6-12. Youth from 26 congregations performed service that blessed 29 agencies across the region this year.
  • SEKUCo: The vision of our companion Synod in Tanzania to improve services to special needs children has connected them with volunteers across our Synod and community and relased a global web of experts to help get the new Sebastian Kolowa University College up and running later this year.
  • Delaware conference: At the suggestion of a lay leader, all but one Delaware conference congregation joined in a Christmas Eve newspaper ad that showed the area that Lutherans can worship and cooperate – all for less than $200 a church. The conference is also adding a monthly "praise and pizza" youth event to their popular Harvey Cedars annual retreat.
  • Northeast conference "Band-Aid": When the state cut a grant for the Northeast Food Cupboard, churches stepped up to raise the shortfall via a "Band-Aid" benefit concert. The now annual event has raised more than $20,000 for the cupboard, which has grown to serve 300 families per month and will, as Feast of Justice Ministries, also provide advocacy, counseling and social services, with a social work intern from Liberty Lutheran Services.
  • Lutherans in Fellowship Exchange (LIFE): This linking of urban congregations allows them to share their strengths for ministry. Pastors with expertise in leadership development, confirmation ministry, couples ministry and stewardship, for example, resource all of the congregations, and they worship together monthly.

The bishop also announced the planned move of the Synod office to the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in late 2008.

" For 140 years the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia has equipped the church with leaders of the Gospel for the sake of the world," she said. "I hope this new addition will release the synergy of the Synod, the Seminary, and the Region 7 Offices, to cooperate and connect our ministries for another 75 years."