“Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:1-5)
In a TED Talk from 2018, Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman begins her TED Talk by asking a simple, but profound question. “Whose shoulders do you stand on”? Take a moment to ponder that question, and then say aloud each name, as you count the fingers on your right or left hand.
My Grandma Julia. My father, George. My father-in-law, Darwin. Bishop Marcus Lohrmann. Bishop Jim Rave.
On the back of the Northwestern Ohio Synod Bishop’s Pectoral Cross are these engraved words: Bishop James Rave 1988-1998; Bishop Marcus Lohrmann 1998-2016; Bishop Daniel Beaudoin 2016-. The Pectoral Cross is a visible reminder that we don’t arrive at a place and in a time on our own. We all, each and every one of us, stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Which is why St. Peter reminds the elders, who come before us, to live humble and honorable lives and then reminds those who are younger to honor the elders.
This past week, we received word of the death of Bishop Jim Rave, who served as the Bishop of the Northwestern Ohio Synod from the beginning of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988, until his retirement in 1998. On Saturday, I had a nice conversation and prayer with Jim’s wife, Carol. I reminded Carol, that it was Bishop Rave who ordained me on June 16, 1996. He also installed me less than a month later at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Edon, Ohio. I remember his kindness. His love for Christ’s Church. And his distinct voice. Bishop Jim Rave had a voice like no other.
A few months ago, I talked with Bishop Rave by phone, and he was weak from recent medical tests and procedures. His voice was not as strong as it once was, but it was still that distinct voice. I prayed with him and asked God for healing and strength, and at the end of our call he gave me a blessing… the old familiar blessing. “And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Even as I write these words, I can still hear his blessing and his voice…
Please consider just one more time Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s simple, but profound question. “Whose shoulders do you stand on”? And as you take a recount, I invite you to also use the fingers of your other hand as soon as you need to. We all, each and every one of us, stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.