Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 [ESV]
Since the bishop election nearly two weeks ago, it seems that more people than I could ever imagine are interested in hearing what I’ve got to say. At last count I had nearly 40 new Facebook friend requests during that brief amount of time. My twitter followers have doubled. (I didn’t have that many to begin with.) I receive congratulatory cards daily. And I’ve lost the battle of responding to my emails.
I also find myself talking to a lot of new people these days – a lot!
As an adult, I’ve always been a talker. After all, I was a broadcaster. But in the last two weeks, I sense myself to be talking virtually incessantly. Outside of my weekly sermons to the faithful at the Lutheran Church of the Covenant, I’ve never thought of anything that I’ve had to say as being all that important.
Obviously, as a pastor, I have serious discussions with people, whether it be a parishioner or a colleague. But those interactions are limited and very specific in nature. These days, I find my jaw going non-stop, like a food processor gone awry and not being able to find the shutoff switch.
The danger in this, of course, is that I don’t always remember what I’ve said – and I don’t have a recorder to remind me. The most helpful advice I’ve been given during this whirlwind that has been the last half month is: less is more. Keep your answers short and general in nature. Don’t elaborate. Avoid specifics.
That sounds a lot like the advice one would give a politician, not a bishop-elect.
Which raises another point. I’ve never been very fond of titles, or inclined to take myself very seriously. The words, “Bishop-elect” or “Bishop”, next to my last name still sound jarring. I hope that doesn’t change. Though I find myself in a new position, I am still the same person and I hope to continue to be that same person.
I don’t want to lose my sense of humor. I love to laugh. I love jokes. I find them disarming, especially in tense situations. Puns are my favorites. Dumb jokes rank a close second. Some of my friends have been known to run when they see me coming because they fear being bombarded with my silliness. “Knee slappers,” I call them. As an aside, for many years, my niece thought I was saying, “Niece slappers,” and would cringe when I started to tell a joke, thinking that she would meet with bodily harm.
So as I navigate, with God’s help, through this as of yet uncharted adventure into which I am now headed, I ask your prayers. Pray that I remain as unchanged as is humanly possible. Pray that humility will triumph over any sense of self-importance that may seek to rear its ugly head in me. And finally, pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will serve to build up the kingdom of God, encourage the people of God in the Northeastern Ohio Synod; and, most importantly, that they be found acceptable to God, my strength and my Redeemer.