So, What Happens Now?

As we turn the calendar page to a new year, I’m aware of the fact that many of my colleagues in the church, particularly those who spent significant time preparing for and participating in events that helped to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, are glad to see 2017 come to an end. Don’t get me wrong; there were many wonderful events, highlighted for me with the October 31 prayer service at Ascension, at which the Roman Catholic and ELCA bishops from Wisconsin signed a Joint Statement, committing us to a life of common witness and service (read the text of the statement here).

Now that this anniversary year is behind us, what happens next? We could certainly move on to the next topic or theme, especially since our culture encourages us to move quickly to whatever is next, never lingering too long on any one idea. But what would it look like if we actually took the words of the Joint Statement seriously? What if we heeded the call for “all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us.” What would it look like if we seriously sought out partnerships with others, working together to “to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.”

The divisions of our world that fall along racial, gender, economic, political, and religious fault lines are sharp, persistent, painful, and, I believe, unnecessary. We need to remember, in the words of the Joint Statement, that “what unites us is greater than what divides us.”  I pray we can all find ways, this year and in the years to come, to build bridges, find partners, forge alliances, do whatever it takes to come together to confront the challenges of our world. I continue to urge you, in the words I shared on Reformation evening, “plant a tree, help a neighbor, listen to a stranger, encourage a child, get to know someone and pray with someone and work with someone from a different racial, economic, political, or religious background. Do whatever you can do to build bridges, inspire hope, celebrate life, light a candle against the darkness, trusting that the God who made us and all of creation, the God in whose very flesh the wounds of the creation are most deeply felt, is the same God who will not rest until every act of justice, love, and faith are gathered together into a healing balm that will not only bring healing and hope to the nations, but to every single person on this planet.”

Thanks for all you do to engage in God’s mission,

Bishop Paul Erickson

© 2017 Greater Milwaukee Synod

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