A Lutheran bishop reflects on his ministry
[Note: This is Faith and Hope Newsletter 222 from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church - Ed.]
Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Our Church has been autocephalous for six years already: our Bishop Vsevolod has been consecrated six years ago. The prayers for the Bishop and all the clergy are being offered annually on the Cantate Sunday.
This time Bishop Vsevolod spent the anniversary of his episcopal consecration in Tuim (Republic of Khakassia), where he served Eucharist along with the dean Pavel Zayakin and pastor Vitaly Gavrilov. Also during liturgy the bishop baptized the newly born daughter of pastor Gavrilov.
The bishop said in his sermon among other things:
“Sometimes they ask me whether it is difficult to be a bishop. Is it easy? You know, perhaps, you would think that I’m boasting if I tell you that it is very hard. It is much harder than being simply a priest.
“Simply put: you know, sometimes I dream at night that I went back in time and remained a simple priest. Oh, if I only could! Actually, I never wanted to be a bishop. Parish priest: that’s an ideal; I know this work, I’m used to it during many years (recently, by the way, 20 years have passed since the day of my pastoral ordination. Can you imagine? Time flies!). So, I know this work, I learned by personal mistakes and mistakes done by others. I got to know my parishioners; I know many of them very well, because they entrusted me the most intimate thing they had -- truth about their sins. I have forgiven those sins by the power given to me by God. They have also entrusted me their concerns, which they shared with me knowing that everything would remain strictly between God, them, and me.
“So this is my work. With it I feel myself like a fish in water. But being bishop is too hard. It seems on the surface that being bishop is not much different from being a priest. Glamorous color shirt, miter on the head and staff in the left hand. But you know, I almost died when exactly six years ago five bishops have laid their hands on me, and I am still dying (cf. 1Cor 15:31).
“Every time I die when I ordain somebody as a priest. It seems that I physically sense how the power leaves me, and after that I want to fall down and lie without standing back on my feet. This is some kind of mysticism, you might say, and you would be right. Yes! It is mystical. If somebody told me this earlier, just six years earlier, I would not have believed it.
“But the Church has decided that I must become a bishop in Siberia... And when I feel that I am unworthy of this high ministry, when I say that I’m sinful and unclean, as it is, you remember, in the Gospel: 'Depart from my boat, O Lord!' (cf. Lk 5:8), the Lord does not depart my boat. On the contrary, He tells me that I must stand up and keep on moving.
“In general, I don’t know if I’m glad that my episcopal ministry has been going on for six years. These were difficult six years, and I personally want for everything to be over already. “God, however, has His plans and His goals. And they say that He doesn’t send us more trials than what we can bear. Probably, it is so! Probably, one has to stop thinking about oneself, and, having put one’s hand to the plow, not look back (cf. Lk 9:62), but rather continue one’s work. “'Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my load is light' (Mt 11: 29- 30). This is what the Lord said to His disciples in today’s Gospel. Therefore, if He wills so, we shall not die, but shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord (from Ps 118:17). And we would continue our ministry, in which we someday would find long awaited rest instead of present constant stress.
“Today marks six years of my episcopal ministry. It is not a round date, but I am glad to celebrate it together with you. I love you, brothers and sisters, father Pavel and father Vitaly, and by your prayers I will try to further serve God and you. Christ is risen!”
Please pray together with us for our Bishop Vsevolod and for all the clergymen in Siberia.
[Note: for more information about the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, visit the website of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society at http://siberianlutheranmissions.com/. 100% of all donations to SLMS go directly to Russia. SLMS has years of outstanding newsletters cataloging the rebirth of Lutheranism in Russia after the fall of communism available for download at their site. A travel blog of the Rev. Larry Beane's 2011 visit can be found here: http://lutheransiberia.blogspot.com/. - Ed.]