Always Being Made New" -- those words have been posted, pasted, printed, painted, and proclaimed as we in the ELCA are celebrating our 25th Anniversary.
Obviously, 25 years is an eyeblink (or less) when you think about the vast expanse of time and space granted and guided by God. But, hey, 25 years is what we have experienced as the ELCA, and we are celebrating! We believe that God in Christ brought us together, sent us out in mission, called us to boldly advocate in matters of justice, and meet human suffering and sorrow whether at the hands of sin or at the edge of natural disasters. We have never stopped changing it seems.
Therefore. it is with faith rooted in Christ, shaped by our theology of the Cross, and unleashed by God'sgrace that we are "always being made new." Those words are both a statement of our reality as well as a fervent hope for the future.
Few voting members expected that on the heels of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's passionate proclamation that like the bones rattling to new life in Ezekiel 37:1-14, the face and name of the one in the office would be made new. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton addressed the assembly, speaking confidently that God was doing something bold (yet comforting). Although the details and specific shape of the church in the next years are not known, she KNOWS that the Cross is the foundation and the center. She sounded excited, even happy, to report that as a leader of the ELCA which has been a church with lots of thinking and strategizing she now feels like she is "falling, but not afraid." She even said that she is pretty clueless about the specifics, but totally confident that through discernment the path will be revealed.
The election happened without campaigning. There were no opposing issues. The nominees spoke with different styles but they all were saying essentially the same thing: We celebrate that we are always being made new. Even now, something new is happening for the sake of our shared mission in Christ.
And in that consensus - always being made new - one ballot after the next tipped the indicator of God's Call to someone new as our Presiding Bishop.
Some would say that all of this happened at a specific time-when ballots were cast.
I would like to suggest that it is only our awareness of God's movement that happened during those moments. The creative action of God has never stopped in all of our 25 years.
And as we are pausing for a moment to process what happened in Pittsburgh, we remember in faith that even now something new is happening. Even now. Even this moment.
As a member of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, I can say that our corner of the ELCA is definitely in flux. We feel a bit torn apart and scattered, like the bones on the field. Many will miss Bishop Eaton, even as we rejoice that her gifts will be shared more broadly. But elements of flux and flow will always lead to something new - that is the promise of God. And what God promises, God accomplishes!
Always, all ways, being made new in Christ.