The Gift of Grace: A Note from Bishop Ortiz

Dear Colleagues in Christ,

If you are following the lectionary, you will be engaging Mark 10:46-52 this coming Sunday. You will hear Bartimeus, son of Timaeus, cry out to Jesus, “My teacher, let me see again.” This is a text I often come back to when I think of Jesus as our teacher; as the one who opens our eyes to what has yet to be understood and embraced as truth for his beloved friends.

This summer, Bishop Eaton called to see how I was doing after my mother’s passing. She asked about the funeral and if anyone from the synod was going. I told her I knew dear friends from our synod were going but that I didn’t need or want them to go. The funeral was all the way in the Bronx and I found it too far for anyone to make the drive. I told her, “I know I’m loved and cared for. Flowers would be fine.” She responded with a chuckle and said, “You really are a Lutheran; you talk a lot about grace but you’re not very good at receiving it.” 

This statement has sat with me since then and has been a lens through which I listen to and pray for you. Conversation with many of you confirms that the grace that may have been present in 2020 may not be as present 20 months into the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, people knew that everyone was doing their messy best to accommodate the need and grace abounded. Now there is a notion that we’ve had a year to figure it all out and we should be expert leaders in and of this new reality. What is lost in that notion is that many gave every drop of themselves in 2020 and are now running on fumes. This is when grace from others would be most appreciated. This is when grace for ourselves is most essential.

In this season, our teacher par excellence, Jesus the Christ, is calling us to open our eyes and embrace the truth; we do have to do this holy work of living and serving alone, we do not need to be experts in a pandemic that is ever evolving, and we should not live out our vocations running on fumes. Also, the grace we teach, preach, and share with others when asked what it means to be Lutheran, is the same grace we are truly allowed to receive and claim for ourselves. 

During this Clergy Appreciation Month, hear the words you received during your ordination once more, “be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” May we hear these words and grant ourselves and our ministries the gift of grace…  with God’s help and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

La Paz en Cristo,
Bp. Ortiz

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