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Eighth Biennial Convention
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
July 4 - 8, 2001

Sermon for the Opening Worship Service
ELCIC Convention  2001

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been a marvelous eight years in this office,
      and before that, eight years in the Saskatchewan Synod,

I have enjoyed this call immensely
I have been pushed to the limits of my endurance
At times I have been pushed past the limits of my ability.
I thank God for the whole experience.

Over nineteen years in synod and national calls
      the travel loses its shine;
      but the people and the events at the other end of each journey
            always make it worthwhile.
      You, dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
            make it worthwhile.
Thanks be to God.
      What a privilege you have given me
            to serve as your bishop.

But there is a turn in the road.
I look forward to that turn.
      It is gift.
      It is opportunity.
      It is time to exercise my life and my vocation in another direction.

Where to from here?
      We have talked and prayed about that.
      The Holy Spirit will lead, as in the past.
      We have heard and lived with the promise:

For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for harm,      
to give you a future and a hope.

It's interesting to discover the words and advice
      that comes your way
            when you set your mind to retire.
A friend sent these words by email couple of weeks ago.

It is called,
      "Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah's Ark."
Here is some of the advice:

      Plan ahead.
            It was not raining when Noah built the ark.
      Stay fit.
            When you are 600 years old,
                  some one may ask you to do something really big.
      When you are stressed,
            float a while.
      Remember,
            the Ark was built by amateurs;
            the Titanic was built by professionals.

I think I must stick to the promise from Jeremiah:

For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for harm,      
to give you a future and a hope.

That is the word of God spoken to the people of God by Jeremiah.
It is our text for this assembly.

Unlike us, the people hearing the word from Jeremiah are in exile.
      They are the leaders and the main movers
            of the chosen people of God.
      They are in exile,
      They have been moved out of their country,
            by the enemy
            to a place a long ways away from home.
All the furnishings and vestments of their life
      are sacked, stolen and abused.
All that they held dear,
      from land and home to temple and worship
            and are in the hands of the enemy.

Home for these people is today's Israel,
      but they are in Babylon.
            They are anxious to get back home.
            They press their cause
                  with tears and prayers
                  and outrage and hopelessness.
            They feel abandoned.
                  "Where is God?"
                  "Cannot God act against the infidel?"
                  "Where is our protector?"

Listen to their life in exile:
      They have set themselves apart from the society around them.
      They will be different.
      Being different will preserve them and identify them.

But the word of God to them
      is so contrary to this action of separation and hiding.
Listen to that word of the Lord.

      "Build houses and live in them.
      Plant gardens in your exile
            and eat what your captors produce.
      Take wives
            and have sons and daughters..
      Multiply where you live,
            even in exile.
      Seek the welfare of the city
            where I have sent you into exile.
      Pray to the Lord for that city,
            for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

To these people,
      these hopeless, displaced and frightened people,
      these people turned in on themselves,
      these people who live in a ghetto of self-concern and self-interest,
            Jeremiah brings a word from the Lord;

For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for harm,      
to give you a future and a hope.

They are crying, they are hurt and they are afraid.
      Can they trust this word?
      Lord, how about some action now?
      We want to see something happen.
      Where are you?
      Not just a promise please.
      Action!

Jeremiah continues: here is the word from God,
      "When you call upon me and come and pray to me,
            I will hear you.
      When you search for me,
            you will find me.
      If you seek me with all your heart,
            I will let you find me.
            I will restore your fortunes.
            I will gather you from all the nations where I have driven you.
            I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

      Note the words;
            I will hear you,
            I will let you find me,
            I will restore,
            I will gather,
            I will bring you back.

Promise.
Promise.

For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for harm,      
to give you a future and a hope.

No fretting.
No stewing.
No driven into hiding by fear.
Instead,
      "Call upon me,
            I will hear you.
      Pray to me,
            I will listen.
      Search for me,
            you will find me.
      Seek me with all your heart,
            with all your fears,
            with all your doubts,
            with all your questions,
            with all your sin,
            with all your honesty,
      I will let you find me.
      I will restore.
      I will gather."
      I will bring you back."

Promise.
Promise.

We are gathered here for many reasons.
But this year is more than an ordinary convention.

For one thing, we celebrate the ordination of women in our church,
      a gracious,
      decisive
      and hope-filled leap into the future
            that was taken by our the church late in the last century..
I remember the discussions and the debate.
We heard the call to change direction.
We heard the words,
      and in faith we acted.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.

We celebrate a relationship long in progress,
      the relationship of full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.
This is not a merger.
      This is the table of the Lord open to one another's members,
            a recognition of ministries, confirmations and ordinations.
This is the first of what I hope will be many agreements
      between ourselves and other denominations
            to commune together and to work together.
It is a bold step
      in our expression of unity in Christ,
            but a carefully worked through step.
It is new to most of us.
But we have heard the call to exercise our unity in Christ
      and in faith act.

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,

Through prayer, conversation and decision
      we will elect a new bishop.
There is excitement in the air.
We all have our ideas about who the person should be.
People are willing to let their names stand.
One will surface
      in what can be for others a painful process
            of selection and call.
Some candidates will experience relief.
Some will experience pain.
Some will ask, "Where to from here Lord?"

For the this whole church and for all of the candidates,
      God's word from Jeremiah is a good word to us today,
            I know the plans I have for you says the Lord.

You see,
      we begin this journey with promise.
We are Christ's body,
      the Church.
We conduct our business
      in the all to human ways we understand
            and trust in the promise of God.

It is God who in Christ
      created and gives life to the whole creation.
It is God who in Christ
      created and gives life to the Church.
It is God who through Christ
      paints such variety in this magnificent and saved community of sinners.

Why should we ever bother to be afraid?
We are the people of hope.
We hope in the promises of God.

For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for harm,      
to give you a future and a hope.

Call.
Search.
Seek.

I will hear.
I will let you find me.
I will restore, gather and bring you home.

Amen.

-- Bishop Telmor Sartison, Wednesday, July 4, 2001

 

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
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