Love Takes Courage

Good Saints of Oregon,

It is October already. Blessed Reformation Month!

Last October, 2020, we were tired and heartsick, missing each other, grieving
innumerable losses, learning new technologies, but also baking more bread, spending more time with children and pets, finding more silence, taking more walks and looking with hope to the day we could unmask again and BE with one another. Sing. Pray. Hug! Many of us were eager to join together to listen for the ways the three pandemics of COVID and systemic racism and climate disasters had wounded and humbled and transformed us and our nation and our church.

Now, a year later, we seem to be lean on hope, and mostly tired and heart-sick. Cranky and impatient. Ill-tempered and worse. I know that I am. And I listen, as many of you share with me that you are both depleted AND being asked to step into leadership in your community in ways you’ve never been asked to before.

Thank you!

I’m praying daily for you, your neighborhoods, your cities and your faith communities.

This month especially, I’m grateful for the Protestant Reformation; it reminds us that in God’s hands, we can give thanks for societal and religious upheaval, quarantine and plagues, even death threats and devastation. Because of the brave and faith-filled leadership of Pastor Martin Luther, Katie Luther and so many others (they were not the first), for example:

  • systemic economic injustices were named,
  • church corruption and spiritual manipulation were called out,
  • diverse vocational calls were recognized,
  • liturgy was altered, as was who could lead and participate in it,
  • girls and not just boys were taught to read and empowered as leaders,
  • and a God not just of discipline, but of free, unearned love, was centered.

Luther was hardly perfect. He did, however, understand that God’s Spirit pulls us into discomfort for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The gospel cannot be truly preached without offense and tumult,” he said over dinner one evening. Love requires courage. Change requires courage. Enduring pandemics we cannot control requires courage. Being willing to be transformed in the midst of it all requires craziness AND courage. The kind Christ calls us to.

So, however exhausted we are, let’s continue our stumbling walk on the Way of Jesus. Let’s open ourselves and our church to Christ’s ongoing Reformation for the sake of justice and love. Let’s rest when we need to rest, and let’s find ways to be patient with our neighbor – the other tired and cranky souls we know and love. Let’s not cling to the past but let go of all that might hinder the work of the Spirit. The church we return to may not look a lot like the church we left last March. Amen! Reformation, after all, means reforming, morphing, letting go, and learning how to share the same age-old
truths of God’s love yet in the local, ever-changing vernacular.

This makes me cranky, to be honest, and yet hopeful. We’ve LONG known our beloved and shrinking Lutheran church needs change.

So, let’s be brave, faithful, and reminded that we are not alone. The God who journeyed with the Israelites in their forty-year wilderness trek, the God who partnered with Paul on his adventures into blindness and new visions for the sake of the expanding church, the God who has held everyone of faith since then, so that we, too, can call ourselves heirs of the promise – this One remains with us, in every breath.

I’m honored to be on the road (syn-odos) with you, Beloved of God.

In Christ,

Oregon Synod Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar