Bishop Election Devotional for January 2019
Luke 22:27 – “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves”.
By The Rev. Norm Eitrheim (South Dakota District President 1981-1987 and Synod Bishop 1988-1995)
As I was moving books into my office before starting work as a bishop, an older gentleman who knew my mother-in-law, appeared in the doorway. After exchanging pleasantries, he said “Gilbertson (my predecessor) was a district president and now you come as a bishop. Are bishops higher than a president? He asked a legitimate question since the title “bishop” was just being used in Lutheran Churches in the United States. I said “Let’s think this through. Probably the best description of the church is that it is a servant church. Now a bishop is called to be a servant of the servants. Does that make one higher than a president?” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said “I was hoping you would say that”.
The figure that best represents the church’s mission is that of a servant. Jesus said of himself “I am among you as one who serves”. This is a lesson about leadership that applies to everyone in the church regardless of status. All the baptized are called to be servants. Baptism is a call to servanthood.
The call extended to a pastor to serve as bishop is a call to be a servant. To be sure, the call of the church to be a bishop comes with a long job description, with diverse and high expectations, and requires gifts and experiences that prepare a pastor to serve in the Office of Bishop, but the Christian faith seeks to serve instead of being served, and every church including all its members and leaders ought to reflect this.
Bishops are not hired to do this challenging and important leadership role in the church, they are called by a servant church by the Holy Spirit who uses a very human process of discernment and voting. A bishop is called by the church to be an imitator of our Lord who said “I am among you as one who serves.”
Let us Pray
Gracious Lord, we give thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ who led by serving, giving his life, so that each one of us in faith, set free from our sins may care for our neighbor. Guide us in your Word as we prepare for electing a Bishop for our synod. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
ELW #825 “You Servants of God”
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