This Bishop Loves You
Jul 01, 2019
By Bishop-Elect Paul Egensteiner
“We love you, too, Bishop.”
These were some of the responses I got as I participated with members of our synod in the Pride Parade on June 30th in New York City. The second response was to a sign I was carrying, along with Bishops McCoid and Burkat, that said, “This Bishop Loves You.” As I marched, I tried to make eye contact with as many people as possible who were cheering us on or standing quietly. Often my attention would be drawn to the person who was looking intently at me, at our presence as Church. What had their experiences of church been? I wondered. What were they expecting our attitude to be toward them even now? I made a special effort to reach out to such people, either with a simple thumbs up or a handshake or high five or simply a greeting of “Happy Pride!"
One connection that stands out to me in particular: A young man shook my hand and said something to me that, amidst the joyful noises around us, I didn’t catch. “Could you say that again?" I asked. In a quiet, tentative voice he repeated, “You mean I'm not going to hell?” I was stunned. “No,” I said. (Along with Bishop Eaton, I believe there is a hell but it is empty, by the grace of the Father and the love of Jesus.) “God loves you!” He held my hand a little longer and then said, “Come here. Give me a hug” As I did so, he repeated his initial question, “So I’m not going to hell, right?” “No!” I repeated, maybe a little more emphatically this time. “God LOVES you!”
I pray that, in that brief encounter, the Spirit opened a new way of understanding in this man’s heart. I know the Spirit did in mine!
What is our mission as the Church? What is our purpose? First of all, to realize that the message and power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is to embody for us the love and acceptance of our gracious God. Our first mission is to listen.
And then to tell. The world in which we live and of which we are a part is hurting, maybe more than ever in this global society in which we find ourselves. And we have a Word, a gracious Word to speak to that pain, that alienation, that fear.
“You are loved. By God, no less!”
This is where we begin. This Gospel is not a treasure we hoard but a gift given to us that we, in turn, give. Freely. Extravagantly. Prodigally. As it has been given to us.
Please, my dear siblings in Christ, TELL somebody this Good News! You may never know the peace that comes, the hope that is rekindled in that person’s heart. But you will know the joy and love of the very message you have shared in your own.
Bishop-elect Paul Egensteiner