I was driving to work one day thinking about my schedule—the meetings I needed to attend, reports I needed to finish, preparations still to be completed for upcoming travel, email I needed to answer, phone calls I absolutely had to make, and compiling a grocery list in my head so I would pick up what I needed for supper on the way home from work. All of a sudden I found myself pulling into the parking garage at the Lutheran Center. I had driven the 9 miles to work and had no idea how I got there. I didn’t remember the traffic lights, the turns, the scenery—nothing. I had been so absorbed in what was coming up that I was completely oblivious to the present. I think this experience is not unique to me. We set part of our lives on autopilot and set the planning, list-making, what-if scheduling part on overdrive. Our culture actually encourages this. When do back-to-school sales start showing up in stores? When do Christmas decorations appear in town squares and at the mall? We have already seen evidence that the next presidential campaign is underway. It can be light all the time now. Burgers or tacos at your favorite fast-food emporium are available around the clock. It’s disorienting. We’re thrown out of rhythm. I remember how confused I became when I first started my call as synod bishop. Gone were the familiar patterns of parish ministry: Monday I got organized for the week, Wednesday night was catechism, Thursday night was choir practice, and everything pointed toward Sunday. The year made sense: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost. As synod bishop and in my current call, we plan so far in advance that I’m not always sure what time of year it is—and there are so many time zones! Now, planning is a good and necessary thing. One ought to be aware of what is coming up, what needs to be done, and where one needs to be. But I found that I was so driven by all of the contingencies and possibilities that I was everywhere all of the time and therefore not anywhere at all. I asked my spiritual director about this and she recommended that I meditate on these four words: “Just this. Just now.” It’s a simple discipline, but not an easy one. It can alleviate all that anticipatory stress, but only if we are willing to quiet down. Near the end of Psalm 46, after descriptions of tumult and uproar, the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Here we are in Advent. This season doesn’t exist in secular culture, where everything is barreling toward Christmas. No time to wait, no time to notice, no time to be present. Not this. Not now. All of a sudden we will find ourselves on the day after Christmas not knowing how we got there. Advent is a holy season, a season that bids us to be present, to be still. So much is evoked in this season—hope, longing, the bittersweet awareness that the world is beautiful and broken. Consider all of these things. Sit with them. Pray with them. Be aware of this time of great promise that comes, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, when night is longest. “In a momentary meeting of eternity and time, Mary learned she would carry both the mortal and divine” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 258). Disengage the autopilot. Notice. The rest of that Advent hymn invites us to be present: We are called to ponder mystery and await the coming Christ, to embody God’s compassion for each fragile human life. God is with us in our longing to bring healing to the earth, while we watch with joy and wonder for the promised Savior’s birth. Just this. Just now.
A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Living Lutheran. Reprinted with permission.
ELCA presiding bishop responds to decision to move U.S. Embassy in Israel
CHICAGO (Dec. 6, 2017) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued the following statement in response to the decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
December 6, 2017 I am deeply disturbed to learn of the Trump administration’s plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The ELCA has long held the view that a negotiated, final status agreement, including a “shared Jerusalem,” must be reached without unilateral actions by any party that would prejudice the outcome of negotiations. This unilateral action would not support the cause of peace and a two-state solution, but rather would unnecessarily create further tensions and possible violence that would make efforts to bring them back together for talks much more difficult. As my brother in Christ and colleague, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, has often said, the security of Israelis depends on the freedom of Palestinians and the freedom of Palestinians depends on the security of Israelis. This proposed action would make both more insecure. To proceed with this plan will only further isolate our nation from the global movement for a just peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike in the region and our church’s policy that seeks an end to the occupation, an end to terrorism and violence, and, ultimately, the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. Since the announcement is one of intentions, I call upon the president to rescind this plan and instead continue to focus on our nation’s ability to contribute constructively toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Along with other interreligious partners, I continue to stand ready to discuss with the president ways to reach a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Response to DACA announcement
CHICAGO (Sept. 5, 2017) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s announcement about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“As we journey together through the time God has given us, may God give us the grace of a welcoming heart and an overflowing love for the new neighbors among us” –ELCA social message, “Immigration” (1997).
We are saddened today by the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided relief from deportation to young people who have grown up as members of our churches, as neighbors playing with our children, and enriching our communities. We pray today for those who will suffer undue repercussions due to the end of this program. As Lutherans, we regard the family as an indispensable social institution and stand firmly against policies that cause the separation of families.
As we lament this change in policy, we call on members of Congress to pass long-overdue legislation to protect young people brought to the U.S. as children, also known as Dreamers. Our churches, our schools, our communities and the country are enhanced by their presence and contributions. It is time that our immigration policy reflects their gifts to all of us. God’s peace,