We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hasten his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to his Name; he forgets not his own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning:
Thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!
We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
Thy Name be ever praised! O lord, make us free!
(Theodore Baker, translator of anonymous text)
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Our new Synod House is becoming more real each week. The architects are fine-tuning the plans. Engineers are working on issues related to the site. Electrical engineers are planning the lighting, and mechanical engineers are working on the heating and cooling. We have had our first meeting with the city's Design Review Board, we've begun the conversations about sidewalks and bike racks. We have the support of all our neighbors, and have begun the negotiations for a conditional use permit for Mission Builder RVs on the site. We hope to begin putting down the concrete slab in early spring, as soon as the weather permits.
In the mean time, we continue to raise funds for the project. Jeanne McCoskery continues to work with congregations and individuals. Mcjeanne8@gmail.com.
And we are beginning the signup of volunteers to come to Great Falls next summer to help the Mission Builders build our new house. Starting June 6, and continuing through September 2, we are looking for groups of volunteers from congregations to sign up for 5 day stints-Tuesday through Saturday. We are asking each group to bring at least 4 construction volunteers and 2 cooks. Pastor Arne Bergland (firstname.lastname@example.org) and a group of volunteers from Our Redeemer's are coordinating the volunteer recruitment. You can find a signup sheet on our website (www.montanasynod.org) and also in this email. More information is there.
We are excited to have this be the people's house, created and built by members of the Montana Synod. We are so grateful to all the people who are stepping up and helping out any way they can.
I look forward to seeing you and working with you this summer!
Jessica Crist, Bishop
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133)
Election Day is over. And now we move on. No matter how we voted, no matter whether we felt we won or lost, we move on. We move on because that is what democracy is about—we move on.
In the Church, we have an opportunity and an obligation to begin the healing process in our communities, to be a beacon of light for those who are exhausted, embittered and feeling disenfranchised. Regardless of our political convictions, regardless of our strongly held opinions, what holds us together is stronger than what separates us. And as Christians we need to model that for the rest of the country. Read from Colossians 3:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
We are joined together by our baptism. We are held together by the love of God in Christ Jesus, who gave his life for the sake of the world, the whole world. We are held together by the God who created each one of us in the divine image, and who loves each one of us despite our faults and flaws. We are held together by the Holy Spirit, who works to transcend our pettiness and self-interest. We are held together by being a forgiven, loved and redeemed people—all of us.
And so we move forward. Election Day is over, and we’ll have services on Sunday. We’ll preach and teach. We’ll partake of the sacraments. And we’ll do it in communities that have been divided by politics. And we will pray for unity, pray for wisdom, pray for strength. We will feed the hungry, and visit those in prison. And we will reach out to our neighbors. Because that’s how we go on.
A Prayer for the Nation in the Book of Common Prayer goes this way:
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace; Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
You only have to read the Gospel for All Saints to know that Jesus would never get elected to anything. He’d get banished as a crazy person, locked up for being a troublemaker. And that is exactly what did happen to him 2 millennia ago. He was locked up and sentenced to death as a troublemaker. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian woman who spoke at the Churchwide Assembly said, “People say to me, ‘Leymah, you must not be such a troublemaker’ And I say to them, “I got a Nobel Peace Prize for being a troublemaker. You should try it, too.’”
Jesus was considered a troublemaker because he challenged the status quo. He challenged the cultural assumptions of the Roman Empire of his day, and his words continue to challenge us today. Particularly in this contentious election year, Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke stand as a jarring contrast to the rhetoric that inundates us and tells us what to long for and what to fear. Jesus would never get elected with a platform like the beatitudes, regardless of whether you go with this year’s Luke, or the more familiar Matthew.
Focus groups have documented that people do not want to hear “Blessed are you who are poor” or “Blessed are you who are hungry now,” or “Blessed are you when people hate you.” And they certainly do not want to hear “Woe to you who are rich,” or “Woe to you who are full now,” or “Woe to you when all speak well of you.”
And as for “Love your enemies,” “bless those who curse you,” “don't fight back against a person who hits you,” “give to everyone who begs from you,” this is not considered good policy. But it is the ethic that Jesus taught, the ethic that we affirm as Christians, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
It is the ethic, ultimately, that connects us with all the saints, those living and those who have died in the faith. On All Saints we remember the heroes and the martyrs, and we also remember our grandmothers and grandfathers, our mentors and teachers who helped us grow in the faith by their words and by their example. And we remember Christians across the globe—our ecumenical full communion partners with whom we share ministry; our companion synods whom we accompany in ministry and service; Roman Catholics with whom we are exploring the meaning of the Reformation five centuries ago; Orthodox; Pentecostal; large denominations and individual congregations—we acknowledge that despite our differences in expression and emphasis, we are one in Christ.
On Monday of this last week an historic event took place. On the 499th anniversary of the reformation, Pope Francis joined Lutherans from around the globe at a spectacular service of worship, commemorating the Reformation. What a hopeful sign to cling to as we celebrate All Saints this year, and as we finish up this divisive election season. Next year, on October 30, I invite you to join the 2 Montana Catholic Bishops and me for our joint service of Christian Unity.
Such is the Kingdom of God
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA