I find myself thinking a lot about courage lately. Perhaps it is because of two instances in recent weeks where courage has been front and center. Several weeks ago, the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA met virtually for our yearly synod assembly. This assembly was special this year, besides being the first virtual assembly, it also called for electing a new bishop for the synod as Bishop Burk is completing his second term and moving on to retirement. The process involves nominations from the people of the synod and agreement from the nominee to be placed on the ballot. The ballots are cast, and slowly the number of nominees is whittled down to seven, then three, then two candidates. Those who are nominated agree to be nominated with the understanding that God may be calling them to the position of bishop. They do so knowing that the Holy Spirit is in control. To be nominated requires vulnerability and the knowledge that only one person will be elected. To be nominated requires the acceptance that God is in control.
One of the clergy who did not forward his profile, but was nominated nonetheless and allowed his name to stay on the ballot was our own beloved Pastor Tim Olson. He was one of the seven, and then one of the three candidates on the fourth ballot. He did not make the fifth and final ballot. I am proud of his courage to be vulnerable to the calling of the Spirit. I am proud that others recognized his pastoral skills and leadership. Selfishly, I am glad he remains with us at Holy Trinity.
The candidate who was elected bishop is Rev. Amy Current, who is the Director of Admissions at Wartburg Seminary. She was very transparent in sharing her story about the process of reaching this outcome. She recalls the external call coming to her through other people that she knew and some that she worked with. However, she didn’t acknowledge that call internally at the time. As the time drew closer for the synod assembly, the internal nudging and disruption inside her moved her to complete the paperwork for her name to be placed on the ballot. Once the paperwork was completed, she just let it sit on her desk. The nudging continued, and through self- reflection she determined that she did not send the paperwork in until three days before it was due, because well, she lacked courage. She lacked the courage to be vulnerable to the possibility of being elected. Yet the Spirit does what the Spirit wants. And Bishop Elect Current will begin her duties later this fall. What a beautiful example of courage!
Have you thought very much about courage in your own life? Courage is very much tied to vulnerability - vulnerability for the sake of Love - Love of God, love of neighbor, and love of the world. Recently, a book study was completed virtually with Holy Trinity members on “Raising White Kids” by Jennifer Harvey. The author said that today we cannot remain silent about racism. We need to be anti-racist. We need to speak up against racism in order to share God’s love, and that means to start teaching our kids as young as possible about life. We need to build awareness of privilege and bias, about history and current issues, as appropriate for the child’s age. Then the author added another important point: As you are learning to speak the truth about our differences, it is ok to fail. You might not get it right as you practice teaching anti-racism, but only through practice can we develop an anti-racist society one person at a time. Love requires vulnerability that we only allow when we have courage.
Where would we be today without courage? Courage is found throughout peoples in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Moses told the Israelites to, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or dread because it is the Lord God who goes with you, he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Isaiah reminds the Israelite’s that each one helps the other saying to one another: “Take courage.” (Is.41:6) Daniel was courageous in the lion’s den. In the New Testament, Jesus tells the disciples that, “In the world you will face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Remember the story of the unnamed woman who when Jesus was at the home of Simon the leper, she came to Jesus with an alabaster jar of costly ointment and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. The disciples became angry at her actions. But out of faith and love, this woman had courage, and Matthew states that wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her (Matt. 26:6-13). And then we have Paul’s life, one courageous day after another.
The Bible is loaded with examples of courage all birthed out of a living faith stirred in the hearts of people who allow themselves to be vulnerable and courageous, aware of God’s constant love and presence. The love of God through Jesus will not leave you either. By being of good courage we can make for a more loving world and be the people God calls us to be. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica; “We had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.” (I Thess. 2:2) This reinforces to me that that courage is always in me and you also, no matter what the opposition may be. Peace, my friends!
Pastor Pam Schroeder