A Blog by Bishop Christopher deForest...
March 16, 2022
As we introduce a new synod website, I am taking this opportunity to start A NEW BLOG – a place online where I can regularly post reflections and highlights from our journey together as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. We’re calling it “On The Way” as a play on the word “synod,” which comes from two Biblical Greek words, syn and hodos. These can mean “on the road with” and also “walking with” – since most people in Bible times (and around the world still today) got from place to place on foot. My intention is to connect with you in this way every week or two. I will also occasionally include a video version to go with the text.
DIVERSE TRAVELING COMPANIONS
March is “Women’s History Month” – and it brings to my mind this passage from Luke’s Gospel:
Soon afterwards [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)
It is easy to breeze past this paragraph, and not be amazed at what it says. At that time, women had little or no equality with men. Here, we see Luke lifting up women by name, and equating them with the twelve apostles! Not only are they at the forefront of the ministry and the mission: their stories are honored (seven demons driven out!); their high rank in the culture is acknowledged (in the court of King Herod!); they are described as powerful and rich in “resources.” And they were more than just a token few; there were “many others.”
Most prominently of all – these women were close traveling companions of Christ himself. They were among the first persons “on the way” with Jesus, side by side with him as he was “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” How did we, the church, ever doubt that women could be full partners with men as lay leaders, and as deacons, pastors, and bishops – with passages as clear as this? I know, I know – there are other places in scripture that say something different. But there’s no denying, this is how Jesus walked, how he worked, from the very beginning. This is where he expected us all to go, and to follow. Full inclusion for all genders.
And how could we not continue down this path, to full inclusion of all people? Diverse traveling companions, from all backgrounds, with all abilities, and all mixes of gifts and growing edges?
Congregations seeking leaders – new pastors, new deacons, new members – often ask me: “Bishop, how can we attract someone to our church?” I say, “Be open to talking to, and walking with, all kinds of people – especially people who may look different than your past, or different from yourself.” We may not all agree on everything; but if we agree to follow Christ on his road to finding all people, saving all people, and walking with all people – we’ll be on the right track.
Let’s share together this wonderful prayer from the Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin, pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle, Washington, found in the book Grace Unbounded: Devotions for Lent 2022 (Augsburg Fortress, 2021, page 27):
God with us, open our hearts to welcome a variety of companions on our spiritual journeys. Make us generous in our giving, so that we bring your healing. Make us humble in our receiving, so that we may know your loving care. Amen.
NEW SYNOD PANDEMIC UPDATE
As promised, as of today (March 15) we are posting a new update with recommendations for our synod community. You’ll find it on our new website home page. I have heard one report (just one so far, thankfully) of someone unmasked, confronting another about their continued mask-wearing in worship, after their council had decided to make masks optional. Please, be kind, in the name of Christ our Lord. We are all tired of wearing these things. Sometimes it seems silly the ways we’ve come to use them. But I invite us all to remember these words of St. Paul:
“…whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense…to the church of God, just as I try…in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” [ 1st Corinthians 10:31-11:1]
Be blessed and stronger together, in the name of Christ,
Bishop Christopher deForest