Bishop Election Devotional for May 5, 2019
By Rev. Dr. Chris Croghan (Luther House of Study)
Two Sides of the Same Coin
For those of us who sit in the pews on Sunday mornings, read our daily devotions, and serve as delegates to Synod assemblies, it isn’t uncommon to think that the primary mission of the church is to help the world rid itself of sin. Naturally, when such thinking takes root, the next conversation centers around what is sin, who is sinning, and how we’re going to free ourselves from this plague.
We find this mentality in the Pharisees and scribes. Experts in the topic of God’s law, they were certain they had the correct prescription for how to make the world a better place, clean up the mess others make and eradicate society of sin. This self assurance was unquestioned until Jesus showed up. Clearly Jesus knew the Torah well. It was as if he had written it himself. And yet, in dealing with sin, Jesus didn’t follow their methods. He dealt with the world in a whole new way.
As we read in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sought out the company of Levi and his associates. To be sure, it’s not simply that he was seeking the company of those on the fringe, the outcasts of society. As Jesus himself says, he was intentionally seeking the company of sinners. The sick. And he called them as much after eating with them.
As we see with the Pharisees and the scribes, the label sinner is offensive to those who are striving to make the world a better place. But there is a fundamental flaw in wanting to be righteous in the law: to avoid being named sinner, and naming sin, is to avoid the Word and work of our precious Lord Jesus.
It’s likely that many, if not all, of us have at one time or another mistakenly thought that Jesus’ primary mission was – and is – to help people clean up their behavior, no exceptions. If you find yourself in such a predicament, it means you have fallen ill. And fortunately, for you, Jesus speaks a specific Word. You, sinner, are forgiven.
The church, as we know, is the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). All baptized Christians are commissioned to propagate Christ’s mission to deal with the sinners of this world – those whom Christ names sick, not the well. The office of the bishop takes the lead in this mission and provides the space and guidance for others in day to day ministry throughout the Synod. As you discern who that person should be, listen to the words they speak and the visions they cast. Listen to their sense of mission of proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness to those who have ears to hear.
LET US PRAY
Lord of mercy and righteousness,
Free us this day from seeking and striving to be something we are not. Free us this day from the fear of harm and danger. Free us this day to hear your Word of promise so that our hands can be unbound to select a bishop who will proclaim your Gospel to all those in the South Dakota Synod who are sick and stuck in their sin.
ELW #609 Chief of Sinners Though I Be
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