As I was preparing a Saturday morning cup of coffee, I was struck by the view outside of my kitchen window. A thick layer of fog had engulfed the Missouri River valley and much of the city of Mandan. It gave me pause as I reflected upon the past week. A week in which I experienced the incredible weight we are called to carry as followers of Jesus. Weight that can sometimes make experiencing the gospel difficult to see through all the fog.
The fall meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops wrapped up on Friday afternoon. Our work as a conference during this meeting included care for our rostered ministers, conversations around our church’s sacramental theology, deep discernment about issues like racism that continues to infect our church and country, and work being done to create memorials that will offer support to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
As our time together concluded, I felt the weight of this call in the office of bishop.
On Thursday this week, our synod grieved the death of another pastor. The fifth death we have experienced in the Western North Dakota Synod in just the past few months. Children of God gathered in worship and experienced first-hand the weight of death and grief.
Sometimes our journey can feel heavy.
The weight can be overwhelming.
The fog so thick that we can’t possibly see a way forward.
Where is the gospel in all of this? Do I still even know what the gift of faith is all about?
In those times, we need to be reminded that Jesus is always beside us and saying to us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Whenever I felt like the weight of this week was just too heavy to bear, I reminded myself that I wasn’t alone. That Jesus was with me all along. The burden didn’t feel quite so heavy then. The fog wasn’t quite as thick.
As bishops, we don’t do anything independent of the rest of our colleagues in the conference. An individual bishop doesn’t bear the weight of the entire church on their shoulders. By God’s grace, we do this together. As our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminded us again this week, “We are church, we are Lutheran, we are church together, and we are church for the sake of the world.”
As our synod gathered to grieve the death of the Rev. Donna Dohrmann this week, we didn’t walk that journey alone either. Donna’s family, and each of us who grieve, were surrounded by people of faith who prayed, sang, proclaimed the good news of resurrection promises, celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and commended our sister in Christ to God’s eternal care…together.
By the time I finished writing this blog post, the fog that had blanketed the Missouri River valley this morning had lifted. In much the same way that the weight of the past week began to lift a little too.
Please join me in prayer…
We pray for your grace, dear God, to listen attentively and share faithfully.
We pray for hearts and minds that are open to one another,
open to your truth,
and open to whatever you may be doing in our midst.
In the name of Jesus we pray.
(prayer written by Rev. Mark Gravrock, Montana Synod)