The Place Where the Child Was


Saturday, January 5, and Sunday January 6, 2019
Epiphany Lutheran Church
5:30 pm + 8:00 am + 9:30 am

Matthew 2:1-12

sermon text


“Call These Leaders” – An open letter to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its congregations, and leadership


Dear church,

Four and a half years ago, in the fall of 2013, I watched, while working in the kitchen at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, as the ELCA Conference of Bishops poured into its Refectory (cafeteria) after singing the Doxology on LSTC’s grand front steps entrance.  They ate lunch and I showed them where to put all of their compostable garbage. Then they headed to Rockefeller Chapel to be present for the installation of the ELCA’s first female presiding bishop. I headed there too after my shift was done.

In the four and a half years since Bishop Eaton was installed, same-sex marriage has become a legal reality in every part of the United States of America, and the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements have come roaring onto the highly public scene. And that doesn’t cover even half of what has happened in the past four and a half years.

Yet I still see phobia, fear, of the LGBTQ+ community. I still see the prevalence of racism in many ways, from micro-aggressions to Charlottesville, August 2017. I am fortunate to find myself in a first call as an ordained minister of Christ’s gospel where sexism and misogyny rarely rears its ugly head blatantly at me, but for many of my colleagues and friends, I know that is not the case.

We live in a 24 hour news cycle world where the power of anxiety is being used to keep us distracted and afraid of each other, and in turn, that fear is being used to build up corrupt thrones of unjust rulers, and I am truly done with all of it. All of these forces, larger than any one individual, that keep us separated from taunt and jeer and harass and crucify.

And so I offer this fervent plea in addition to my prayers to the Holy One for change, to the leadership of our current ELCA congregations and bishops/synod staff in our denomination.

God has called prophets and pastors and leaders who are gay or lesbian or bisexual or queer. God has called leaders who are transgender or nonbinary. God has called Black leaders and Latinx leaders and Asian-American leaders and Native leaders. God has called immigrant leaders. God has called women…God has called leaders who wish to enter into a second career for the sake of the gospel… God has called disabled leaders…God has called single leaders, leaders who might not have children or a spouse with an easily transferable job…

And what I wish we said more often, in addition to acknowledging the reality that our denomination is the whitest in the country, an important thing for us to do, is that God has called leaders from the vast majority, if not all, of these categories into positions of leadership in this church since before the ELCA and I were born in 1988.

I know that God has called and will continue to call these leaders. I can feel it in my bones, bones that sometimes feel dry with weariness and exhaustion but bones to which Elijah still prophesies, in the very breath of the Holy Spirit that I feel moving through me when I preach from the pulpit and preside at the table.

Do you feel it too, church? Can you feel that breath of new life filling your lungs and your bodies today?

I pray, then, that you too, church, would call. Clearly, firmly, and with a significant deal of volume,


Call them, with the breath of the Holy Spirit, in spite of the fear you may have of calling someone whose life may be different than the life you know. Call them, in spite of the fear that you may have about whether or not you will say the right thing in that first interview, by the grace of God. Call them, with the Pentecost fire in your bones, if you are tired of reading about news of war and violence and bigotry and you want to do something about it. Call them as you continue to try to follow Jesus, who crossed invisible barriers on the regular to heal and teach and care and love.

Call them. Communicate respectfully and in a timely fashion with them, expecting nothing less in return from them. Compensate them equitably. Watch and listen for the word of God being proclaimed in their words and actions. And minister with them to this world that is so desperately and urgently in need of a story of the forces of death being destroyed forever and of new life being real.

This is my plea to you, church. This is our opportunity to lead through our actions. We do not have a shortage of leaders. Leaders are all around us. They are called by God. But it is up to us, the church, to call them to lead us.

I pray that we will.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Anna Ernst