The 10th Biennial convention of the ELCIC
met this summer in Winnipeg.
We gathered under the theme:
In Mission for Others.
I was asked to write a sermon for use in congregations
on the Sunday of that weekend.
One of the lessons was from the same portion of Romans 8 as tonight, so I want to begin where I left off then.
Paul's mission to the Gentiles had met with brutal opposition
and put him in direct conflict with
the piety of his fellow rabbis and theologians.
His mission had become a risky business
that resulted in riots when he was in town,
and got him arrested, flogged and imprisoned.
Many who started with him abandoned him.
But Paul knew that the mission wasn't his.
He was the ground in which Christ had planted a seed.
This was the living Christ growing inside him
like a foetus in a pregnant women.
Christ, who taught an inclusive understanding
of the reign of God.
So Paul learned to trust Christ in spite of the suffering.
He learned that things happen despite opposition, and
that gave him the energy and the vision to keep going.
Humans do not have the gift of foretelling the future.
Therefore, when they face an uncertain future,
they can clamour for promises of certainty, or
they can trust,
look forward in hope and
dare to engage the needs of others.
If the trusting and hoping goes nowhere, it goes nowhere.
But by hoping in the future,
they leave the door open for something more to happen.
That's what Paul chose and urged on his congregations.
This chapter of Romans and the other lessons
have been foundational to my faith development.
I confess that I wonder what has happened
to the church of today.
How did we get so cautious and self-concerned?
Why do people demand churches that assure them
the way things are now is the way God always wanted it.
One church member wrote to me following this summer's convention
because he was angry about the Canada Lutheran article
written by Ron Friesen
in which I was quoted as saying that
half the members of the church were
disappointed by the vote on a local option
for same gender blessing.
I went on to say that this issue is bound to come up again.
The letter-writer said I should have told Friesen,
The matter has been settled.
But matters don't get settled that way.
That's the whole point to Ezekiel's vision.
Dead people don't go away.
The sixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers
tells the story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram
who led a protest against Moses and Aaron's
holding a monopoly on the priesthood of Israel.
Moses and Aaron had not delivered
on the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey,
so the trio questioned the quality of their leadership.
Well, Moses prayed to God against them and
the earth cracked open and
swallowed them up.
Elie Wiesel described a midrash that says
Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their descendants did not die.
They simply live underground now.
And when you pass over a manhole in the street or a storm drain,
you can hear them softly asking
the kind of questions you dare not answer
because to do so is to incriminate yourself.
Destroying others solves nothing.
The recreation of life is God's passion.
The dead bones of conquered Israelites,
the oppressed peoples of Chile and Colombia,
the Palestinians of the Middle East don't go away.
Beaten, raped, intimidated children of residential schools
don't dry up and fly away.
Crucified Jesus doesn't go away.
They all come back to life and find their voice again.
The Promise is this:
God provided a creation
that was intended to sustain just and peaceful societies.
It was capable of containing great variety, great diversity.
Emerging novelty was bred into its very fabric.
The disappointment is that the creation is in pain.
The pain comes from human unwillingness to be just or peaceful.
The pain comes from human unwillingness to tolerate otherness.
Religious people have caused much of that pain:
religious people who have been absolutely sure
they know what God wants.
The church of Christ is called to respond.
Every enterprise of ours has but one purpose—
to point to the gospel through
the proclamation of the Word,
the celebration of the sacraments and
through service in Christ's name.
The least, the last and the lost must hear good news.
Leadership for this enterprise is crucial.
Waterloo Lutheran Seminary
is charged with the task of preparing such leadership.
It is being led by a person
who has been exemplary in his own ministry of
justice, peace-making and compassion for the disenfranchised.
This leadership is a tough job.
It is sometimes opposed by deeply pious people.
It is always opposed by those who exploit power and wealth.
We want these leaders to have the
rabbinic skills of Biblical interpretation,
historical perspective and
But we also want them to have the attributes of
We want leaders who can be sensitive but not neurotic,
responsive but self-defining.
This is no task for wusses.
Your professors, too, have endured incredible disrespect
by our own church members this past year.
I, myself, have received a criticism or two.
Gospel leadership is not the task
only of rostered ministers.
We require leadership in the public forum,
in secular society.
We require peace-making through justice
to be embedded in the fabric of this church's society,
in the heart of its culture.
I, personally, and the offices of the national church
are deeply committed to
the support and nurture of our seminaries.
God has blessed your new Principal with spiritual gifts of
Cherish him, pray for him and pray for his team.
The texts for this service
are fundamental to the ministry of ordained and lay alike.
That they would be chosen
as a way to focus on this installation
shows great promise
for the quality of life together in this institution.
Thank you for your embrace of the ELCIC's commitment to be
A Church in Mission for Others.
Grace and peace to you all.
+ Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop
This sermon was written for the installation of Rev David Pfrimmer as dean of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, September 18, 2005, St Peter's Lutheran Church, Kitchener ON.
Return to the Bishop's page