One of my favorite shows as a child was Ren and Stimpy. I'm not suggesting it's the most wholesome show, but at times, it offered some clever social commentary. One of my favorite moments is from the commercial for Log. Check out the commercial for this toy that all the kids will love.
Ridiculous, right? Not as much as you might think. While we were with some of our youth and young adults on a hike and swim event at Claytor Lake State Park, the "toy" that drew the most attention wasn't the football, frisbee, beachball, or bocce ball set that we brought. It was the log-sized driftwood that floated into the swim area. The lifeguards must have admonished a half dozen kids for playing on the log. Apparently we're so worried about liability that kids can't play with driftwood! Before the log was dragged onto the beach, their imaginations didn't just see a dead plant, but a personal flotation device, a pirate ship, a tugboat, a donkey to ride (apparently donkeys can swim while hauling people), and who knows what else. Imagination turns logs not just into toys, but all sorts of creations that bring us joy.
Imagination is an indispensable part of our life together as the church. This weekend, June 9-11 of 2017, the Virginia Synod of the ELCA will call a new bishop to lead God's work through our Virginia congregations and ministries. We use an ecclesiastical ballot, which means that we believe the Holy Spirit is actively at work in the process and that any pastor in the ELCA is eligible on the first ballot. There's thousands of possibilities of who could become the next shepherd among us, but when I think about what kind of leadership we need in the church, I think about logs.
I pray for a bishop who sees more than just driftwood, whose imagination allows her to embrace the endless possibilities of what that log might be.
I pray for a bishop who won't holler for people to stop playing with that log, whose aversion to risk will smother any innovation. We need a bishop who takes calculated risks, understanding that the rewards aren't just in some far off potential payoff, but in the thrill of the risk itself.
I pray for a bishop who will gather a staff around her that will complement her strengths and fill in for her weaknesses.
I pray for a realistic bishop, who knows well the obstacles we face. We need a visionary bishop, whose insight sees the way to Christ's abundant life within and beyond today's dilemmas.
I pray for a bishop who loves Jesus, loves the church, and loves the world that we're called to serve.
In this increasingly divided culture, I pray for a bishop committed to diversity and inclusion of people who aren't like us. A bishop who celebrates the gifts that others bring. A bishop who won't let the patriarchy and privilege caught up within our bureaucracy prevent us from lifting up the wonderful gifts brought by women, people of color, people in the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, people in poverty, people of all sorts who aren't as welcome as they ought to be in our churches.
I pray for a bishop whose leadership decenters leadership and recenters the Priesthood of All Believers, and that doesn't put an asterisk on the all.
I pray for a bishop who looks at these challenges not as some useless piece of driftwood as an obstacle to ministry, but as an opportunity to find joy in seeing new life where there seemed no possibility for life. I pray for a bishop who grasps the joyful ability of a young person to see something more than a log and helps others see that too.
The Holy Spirit that will guide our process of calling a new bishop is the same Holy Spirit that moved to create all creation out of formless chaos. The Holy Spirit never sees only dead vegetation floating without purpose. The Holy Spirit sees hope beyond hopelessness for new life for that log. I pray for a bishop filled with that spirit, with God's Spirit, for it is that very Holy Spirit that is at work making all things new.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.