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Ministry Takes Wisdom, Courage, Imagination, Bishop Urges Lay and Clergy

Posted: June 8 2023 at 12:01 PM
Author: Victoria Rebeck


Recalling the words of the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory,” Bishop Dan Schwerin admonished those transitioning into new forms of ministry that imagination takes courage, and wisdom should precede courage. “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,” the hymn petitions God.

“We who are in Christ, have cause for hope,” Bishop Schwerin preached at the Celebration of Ministry on June 6. “But let's be clear: it takes courage to imagine.”

He found these lessons in Luke 11:1-8, in which Jesus tells a story of a person needing bread to serve a visitor. So this host goes to a friend’s home—at midnight—and asks for three loaves of bread. The friend, however, awakened in the middle of the night by pounding at the door. “My door is already locked and my kids are trying to sleep,” the man says. It’s an inconvenient time. Jesus says that friendship may not be enough, but persistence will get the person the bread he needs.

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“It takes courage to imagine,” Bishop Schwerin said. “Three times in the text this evening, Jesus uses the word imagine—imagine in the imperative.

“Imagine with me if you will, there is bread in the community and all we face is a distribution problem. The bread is here. It's just in somebody's house. Here we have a protagonist who dares to live in hopeful imagination that bread and neighborliness is possible.”

Wisdom came first for the protagonist, the bishop observed. He suggests that the protagonist is thinking, “Although it is midnight, if I knock knowing there is bread in this town, my friend might say yes. “But if not, I could wake the whole town until someone throws bread at me.”

It takes courage to imagine, Bishop Schwerin said. “It takes courage to integrate ministry with prayer and the one who calls, wisdom first, courage second.”

Hopeful imagination came to the bishop in the form of a man named José, a waiter who served him at a restaurant.

Looking at the bishop’s pin of the bishop’s crest, José asked the bishop what he did for a living, and the bishop who told him.

José said, “I'm glad you're not a priest.’

Bishop Schwerin answered, “I am, too. Why do you ask?”

“It’s a long story,” he said. “I’ve got time,” the bishop answered.

Jose told of having to get a divorce, against his will, and now his parish priest would have nothing to do with him.

“But you haven't given up on God?” the bishop asked.

“No,” he said. “Bishop I am proof of the existence of God.”

“Now, I have studied the proofs of the existence of God—the ontological proofs, the teleological proofs, and cosmological proofs, but none of them mentioned José,” Bishop Schwerin said in an aside to the conference members.

José explained that in his village in Mexico, drug dealers were after the young men of his age. He had to join them and die young, or leave. So José chose to leave.

He, some friends, and their families sold everything they had to pay a coyote to transport them across the border. However, the coyote took them some distance and then abandoned them in the desert.

“In the morning, it was brutally hot,” he said. “We were walking and passed all these bones: long skeletons, little skeletons; some skeletons holding another skeleton. One skeleton had a pink shirt and little blue jeans.”

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José looked the bishop in the eye and asked, “I wonder if you can imagine it.”

“After the skeletons, I woke up, and it was night,” José continued. “I had passed out and my three friends carried me. Now it was night, and we were out of water and in the desert. Bishop, I stood up and I prayed, ‘God, make it rain. We are all out of water and we are thirsty. Please make it rain!’

My friends laughed at me and mocked me, “Please make it rain.”

“Bishop, you know what happened?”

It rained.

“It rained. It rained in the desert, Bishop. We filled our bottles and filled our mouths. We laughed and we cried. Bishop, I'm proof of the existence of God and now with my life, I'm just trying to make things right. I just go around and try to make things right.

Bishop Schwerin said to José, “You have a lot to give a church.”

José answered, “I have a lot to give everywhere.”

“You who are sent by means of our baptism: laity, deaconesses, local pastors, missionaries, deacons and elders: imagine kinship and mutual benefit,” Bishop Schwerin continued in his sermon. “Imagine bread and community. Then proceed wisdom first, courage second.”

It may be midnight in our world, but it’s not to late t may be midnight but it's not too late to imagine governance that serves the whole and not the few.

It may be midnight but it's not too late to imagine responsible care for the planet; that all people are of sacred worth; that the people of Jesus can model and witness racial justice and radical inclusion; comprehensive immigration reform, and bread for all who eat, the bishop urged.

“I believe love endures,” he said. “I believe ministry is wisdom first and courage second. I believe it takes courage to imagine—and it’s not too late to imagine.”

Watch a recording of the Celebration of Ministry

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