National Bishop Raymond Schultz

Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.

ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:

Canada Lutheran, January/February 2005

Further Reading

More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.

National Bishop's Turn

By Faith Abraham Obeyed

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man…for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. Luke 6:22-23

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. Luke 6:26

Jesus, in no uncertain terms, encourages the apostles to be bold in risking disapproval for the sake of remaining open to the onset of the reign of God.

Jesus was crucified by two institutions working together: the church and the state. As can happen with institutions, fear of alien influence can lead to persecution. If the aliens assimilate, well and good; but if they introduce new cultures and values, the resulting disarray in the order of things is enough reason to destroy them. Jesus was not to be allowed to threaten either the popular piety of his religious community or the civic stability of Roman culture. He was accused of drunkenness, debauchery and blasphemy. He was executed for treason. The people who made these decisions about Jesus were absolutely certain it was the right thing to do. They did not believe God could approve of such a mission.

Canada is in the midst of a pluralist transformation. The nation that once placed Germans, Japanese and Ukrainians in internment camps, refused Jewish refugees during WW II and charged a head tax on Chinese labourers, has now become one of the most multicultural nations in the world. Many of Canada's newcomers hold ideas about citizenship that we find regressive. Some are intolerant of the very tolerance that permitted them entry in the first place. Will this social experiment work out?

This church also has been challenged in its certainties. Gays and lesbians want full citizenship under the reign of God. The fear I hear expressed in many letters is that if we tolerate this redirection of sexual mores, we will commit a grievous sin and the institution will lose God's approval. People who are strongly for or against the acceptance of same-sex marriage express their opinions with certainty. Most of our people, however, are more open-minded and would like to explore the options. The certainty camps are preventing that. Insecurity and fear of the unknown are driving a wedge between members of this church.

We can counter this "certainty war" with our faith. Faith is nothing less than trust in our relationship with God and the journey that results.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

God is denied more often by certainty than by the taking of risks. Abraham and Sarah simply set out on a life journey, not always sure that what they experienced was God. Moses never was told God's name. Do you think it is possible for us to own our doubts, express them, and let our faith develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear?

Note: The National Church has commissioned a set of essays which are accessible on the national website (http://www.elcic.ca/docs/2005/blessings.html). Other members of the church who have some reasoned discourse to contribute may do so. Terms of reference are posted on the response site.

Bishop Raymond Schultz

Canada Lutheran, January/February 2005