Speech on the eve of the Bishop's consecration - Skálholt, Iceland

22.7.2018

Piispa Laajasalon puhe Skálholtin piispan, Kristjan Björnssonin, vihkimyksen aattona - Skálholt, Islanti

Bishop Agnes, Bishop-Elect Kristján, ladies and gentlemen,

 

I would like to congratulate the whole Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland on the occasion of this episcopal consecration, and I bring the greetings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Diocese of Helsinki.

 

An episcopal consecration is a great occasion for an individual – that is, for you, Bishop-Elect, brother Kristján, but more especially, for the whole Church of Christ.

 

Tomorrow is a day of great celebration. Bishop Agnes has asked me to read this text from Peter’s first epistle:

 

I Peter 5:1-4 

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

 

This is an especially important passage for a bishop – it tells us what kind of person the bishop should be, and what kind they should not be. Before this text, I think each of us feels small. It seems that caring for the flock in modern times is increasingly challenging. We bishops have to ask where our flock is. Whom does it include? What gives us the right to speak in society? Iceland has grown accustomed to many storms and knows how to withstand difficult times – but it seems that cultural and social storms are challenging us in all the Nordic countries.

 

Bishop-Elect, the Archbishop-Emeritus of the Finnish Church has offered guidance to many future bishops with the following message: the bishop is good when he or she places themselves in the midst of their flock. I think this is important advice.

 

First and foremost, there are occasions when the bishop’s task is above all to walk ahead of the flock. So show the way, be courageous and expose yourself first to new challenges. Be courageous and say to your flock: follow, and walk behind me.

 

Secondly, there are occasions when the bishop’s task is to walk in the midst of the flock. So see the daily lives of the flock and show them what is holy, be among them as one of them, support them, and be in their group.

 

Thirdly, there are occasions when the bishop’s task is to take up the rear. Allow others to be seen first, allow others to go faster and arrive last yourself. Walk at the back of the flock so that everyone stays together, so that the slowest in the flock will not be left behind.

There is a beautiful conclusion to these verses from Peter’s letter, which reminds us of the bishop’s insignificance – and the greatness of the Heavenly Shepherd who is over us all.

 

This is a moment of grace. Even when the bishop thinks too much of him or herself. Or even when the bishop is inadequate for the task. The Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one for others – and ultimately, every bishop belongs to his flock and his shepherd’s staff guides each bishop’s path.

 

God bless you, dear brother Kristján Björnsson; God bless those whom you love; and God bless Iceland and the whole Church of Christ.

 

Congratulations!