Bishop Election Devotional for May 22, 2019


Read: Acts 1:21-26


By Pastor Gary A. Westgard, retired

“ . . . one of these must become a witness.  So they proposed two, . . . then they prayed, and then they cast lots . . .”

They cast lots.  And we cast ballots.  One could think there is another way. A burning bush maybe. But no, they cast lots. And we will cast ballots. We pray and we trust.  We trust God and we trust one another. Sounds pretty risky.

But it’s not. Both Barsabbas and Matthias held the same credentials. Both were qualified.  And tradition holds that both lived out their lives in faith and service as followers of Jesus.

So we too will choose from a litany of faithful pastors, respected and loved as servants of Christ. When the votes are counted, we will trust that God’s will is done and trust that this one particular child of God is to be our bishop for awhile.

Bishop. The old English word is bisceop, which comes from the Latin word episcopus, which comes from the Greek word episkopos, meaning overseer.

This person will oversee the congregations and pastors of the ELCA in South Dakota, will serve as president and chief executive officer, will oversee the staff and budget and administration of the Synod, will represent us at the Council of Bishops, will speak for us and speak to us on matters pertaining to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Perhaps more importantly, he or she will be our pastor.

Pastor. Shepherd. One who leads to pasture.  The root word means to tend, to keep, to guard, to protect.  Our bishop is pastor to the 205 congregations and the 340 rostered leaders of the South Dakota Synod.

I have been lead by good overseers, shepherded by good pastors. Archie Madsen in the Central District. Then I moved to South Dakota. E. O. Gilbertson. Norm Eitrheim. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl. Dave Zellmer. Each a bishop and each a pastor in his or her own way. I have been blessed by each, learned from each, glad for each.

Faithful? Yes. For sure. No doubt. As bishops and as pastors. Perfection? They would say no, of course not. I would agree.

But this whole thing is not about perfection. It is about faith in God and trust in one another.   It begins with prayer. Then we cast ballots.  And no matter who is chosen, she or he will do their very best to serve the South Dakota Synod as pastor and as bishop. And we will be just fine.


Dear Good Shepherd, lead us now as we go about the work of choosing one of your children to be our Bishop for a time. Continue to bless the congregations and pastors and deacons of the South Dakota Synod.  Help us to remember that we all are one in mission; we all are one in call, our varied gifts united by Christ, the Lord of all. And help us to plan and work together that all may know Christ’s love. Amen.


We All Are One in Mission ELW #576


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