As Episcopalians in the Diocese of Massachusetts, we gave thanks last weekend as we elected a new bishop to lead us – the Rev. Alan Gates of St. Paul’s Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
We will eagerly await his arrival as we look forward to his consecration on Sept. 13. We may have great expectations for his episcopate. He comes to us highly qualified, and his accomplishments are many. And, he is a human being. In other words, he will inspire us, and I am sure, at some point disappoint us. But that should not surprise us in the least.
This Sunday, we remember another time when a “new” leader was welcomed by a community with great celebration and great expectations. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, there were many who expected that he would fulfill their hopes that he was indeed the Messiah – the one to liberate them from the oppressive yoke of the Roman Empire. Jesus inspired adulation and adoration. But within the course of a week, he demonstrated a very different way of leading - a way of truth telling, humility and obedience; a way of forgiveness. His way of being in the world disappointed some and threatened others. He did not fulfill expectations, but upended them. In so doing, he gave his life, faithfully. But in that offering he opened for us the path to live in just such a way.
I am sure that Alan Gates will bring significant gifts to our diocese, and I certainly hope he will fulfill some of the expectations that we have for him. But I also hope he will challenge us, and be unafraid to unsettle or upend some of the expectations we have for him and our diocese. And if he does, my prayer is that we will see him for who he is: our bishop, and not the Messiah. He will bring great gifts. And he will bring his humanity. He is a gifted leader. And he is a human being. I hope that we will embrace all those things, as we welcome him with love, affection and the prayer that he will be a disciple among us, walking in the way of Christ.
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