Dear Friends in Christ,
When someone asks you who you are, how do you identify yourself? Paul, formerly known as Saul, begins every one of his letters by identifying himself with words like these: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God…” (Rm 1:1) If you have a moment, page through the first few verses of each letter from Paul to see how he identifies himself in relationship to God and his calling. “An apostle of Christ, a servant of God” – these, according to Paul, are his primary identities.
Imagine introducing yourself to those you meet using a salutation similar to Paul’s. Imagine beginning an email or a text with words like “Alex, a disciple of Christ, called to be a musician for the church,” or “Chris, a servant of God, called as a health care worker to serve those suffering or sick.” Take a minute to think through what identities in relation to Jesus you might use in your introduction...
...Now, imagine using such an introduction every time you speak or write to someone, whether stranger, friend or family. How would such ownership of who you are in Christ affect your relationship with God? Your relationship to those around you? To yourself?
After I was elected in June, some of you may have wondered “who is this person just elected to be our bishop?” For some in the synod, I’m fairly well-known; for others, I am a complete stranger. When facing a stranger, especially from a distance, it is easy to make assumptions, to stereotype, to misunderstand and misrepresent. When I catch myself doing this, I try to remind myself of Luther’s explanation to the 8th commandment “to speak well of them and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” (Luther’s Small Catechism) But that’s hard to do when you know so little about a person.
So, to make it easier to get to know me, let me introduce myself using Paul’s salutation style. “Laurie, a beloved child of God baptized into the family of Christ; a sinner reconciled into God’s love by Christ; a follower of Christ, called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a pastor, preacher, teacher, occasional prophet, and now bishop for the sake of proclaiming and energizing the Gospel of new life into the world; definitely NOT God (thank God!); and a ‘little Christ’ called to be a daughter, friend, colleague and neighbor to those in need.”
That’s enough for now. But over the next days, months and years, I hope to have the opportunity to meet you in person so that we can get to know each other better. My plans are to visit each of your communities, congregations, ministries, text studies, celebrations and challenges as my schedule allows. However, please be patient with me; since I am not God (thank God!), I can only be in one place at a time. I’ll do my best to get there when I can. In the meantime, you are all invited to my installation on Saturday, September 21 and to the light-lunch reception afterward for a brief meet and greet with me. I look forward seeing you there!
Your fellow follower of Christ, Bishop Laurie
 Martin Luther uses the language of “little Christ” in his essay called “Freedom of a Christian.” He says that in relation to God we are saved by Christ while in relation to our neighbors we are called to be like Christ – little Christ’s.
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Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod