From a Bishop's Desk

A series of opinion articles and essays from bishop's of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and ecumenical partners.


A Message of Hope for the New Year

Dec 10, 2023



“To the saints… Grace to you and peace.”
So St. Paul begins many of his letters. In some cases, it is a statement of reality. In others, it feels like Paul’s fervent prayer. Some churches to whom Paul wrote seemed to be getting it mostly right (Philippians) whereas others were in the midst of serious conflict (Galatians). Sound familiar?
In all circumstances, grace and peace are foundational to all that Paul has to say in the rest of the letter. He will sometimes add “from God our Father” and also “and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s belief, experienced in his own broken walk of faith, is that real grace and peace come from God. What makes God’s grace and peace real is the fact that, like God, they are eternal and deep, not depending on outward circumstances but on God’s intention and will begun at creation where God brought order out of chaos. Even though outward circumstances seem to deny this deeper reality of grace, as St. John says at the very beginning of his Gospel (read on Christmas day), “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Dear saints, as we find ourselves in the first days of a new year, an opportunity that often brings a sense of possibility and anticipation, I want to encourage us together to remember that our hope is built on God’s grace and peace. It might not take long for those resolutions to be compromised or abandoned. Reading news headlines will quickly reveal the fact that the newness we had hoped for, the fresh start we toasted on New Year’s Eve at midnight, might not have much permanence or reliability. Especially if we passively hope for this newness without embracing our discipleship as followers of Jesus! I will remind you that our focus as the Metropolitan New York Synod is to “live like Christ in our communities.” I believe that is what St. Paul was encouraging his faith communities to do. In the face of challenge, persecution, disappointment, conflict, desertion, small numbers, disregard (if not hostility) from the world around them, Paul encouraged them to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have [already] died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3) Our focus and attention to “things that are above,” both as individual disciples and as communities of faith, guide us in dealing faithfully and lovingly with “things that are on earth.” So we become, because of God’s enduring grace and peace (“Not as the world gives.”), peacemakers, justice seekers, evangelists, generous, compassionate, righteous… together!
My wife and I just finished reading through the Bible. I love that last book and the way it ends. In Revelation 21 (the next to last chapter of the entire Scripture!), God says, “See, I am making all things new.” Including us! Our hope is built on that resolution, that promise, that ongoing activity of God. I thank God for all of you and the mission we share, to live like Christ in our communities.
Rooted in God’s eternal grace and peace.
In the name of Jesus.
Yours in the Christ who makes all things new,
Bishop Paul Egensteiner