October 20, 2019

Hagmaier becomes bishop of ELCA - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Hagmaier becomes bishop of ELCA

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Posted: Monday, September 9, 2019 3:41 pm

The Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, in a children's sermon prior to being installed as the fourth bishop of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, engaged children gathered around her in an important dialogue.

"Do you know why we're here? Do you know why all these people are here?" she asked.

In her responses to the children, their answers became evident.

"We'll get to the cookies later," she said at one point.

A bit later, before launching into the heart of the children's sermon, Hagmaier said, "This isn't really about me. Nothing that we do here is about me. Who else could this be about?"

"It's about people," she said, answering the rhetorical question. "It's about people and Jesus. Who is going to tell the people who are not here that Jesus loves them? Yes, you can tell them."

And then, finally, she answered the question she opened her sermon with.

"We are here because of who we are -- God's beloved children," Hagmaier said, and encouraged the children to share God's love with others and to remember His love when they don't feel strong.

An estimated 600 people gathered at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls on Saturday as Hagmaier, who has served for the past 10 years as the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Madison, was installed as bishop. The contemporary building was filled with the sound of traditional hymns, laughter and prayer.

The theme for the service was "Come Holy Spirit," and the clergy wore red stoles, but neither the readings nor the sermon relied on the obvious.

The reading from Isaiah was not the familiar passage from Chapter 61, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," but rather from Chapter 52, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news." The New Testament reading was not Pentecost, but rather from 2 Corinthians 4: "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."

The gospel was not the Baptism, though the service started with a thanksgiving for baptism. Waters from prairie rivers, Bear Butte, the Prairie Coteau and elsewhere across the state were poured together and those in attendance where sprinkled with "this simple water that sustains life."

The gospel was the Woman at the Well from John's gospel. As the Rev. Dr. Anna Madsen said in the sermon, each reading reflected a time of "cataclysmic brokenness," but also a time of "stubborn, resilient, defiant hope."

Her humorous anecdotes filled the sanctuary with laughter. Each story, though, introduced a more serious point.

Madsen described her husband's frustration with South Dakota drivers. The Ohio native couldn't figure out why drivers in vehicles they encountered would lift a single finger from the steering wheel as though pointing to something.

When he finally voiced his frustration, she said she explained, and "from that point on, he raised the right finger."

Her point was that transitions require a reorientation.

She related a story of flying with former Bishop Dave Zellmer which was not the easy flight she anticipated.

"I needed not to be optimistic, but to be hopeful," Madsen said, and continued. "Hope is as distinct from optimism as despair is from pessimism. We are not needing a dose of optimism; we are needing a dose of hope."

She talked about social injustices, such as separating children from their parents at the border, and noted these actions "originate or are condoned by those who follow Jesus." She expressed her skepticism by going on to say, "Creatures and creation are crying out, `How long? How long, O Lord, how long'?"

Madsen talked about fear and silence in the face of these injustices and in the face of the changes which are occurring. She then reminded those in attendance that both Jesus and the angels say, "Do not be afraid."

She reviewed the historical context of each reading and compared those times to the present, noting specifically that each writer was living in a time of change.

"And yet, each of them found themselves confronted with reasons for hope," Madsen said.

She called upon those in attendance to be ambassadors for life in the face of injustice and to be hopeful in the face of change.

"In everything that you do as a person of faith, you are to magnify the Lord," Madsen said.

The Rite of Installation was simple and included a laying on of hands as well as a traditional Lakota prayer. It concluded with Zellmer removing the cross he wore and putting it over Hagmaier's head, handing her a crozier -- or staff -- and giving her a pitcher of water to symbolize the baptism of the faithful.

Following the installation, the service continued with the Lord's Prayer, communion and a blessing from the bishop prior to dismissal.

In her final comments, Hagmaier recalled the promise that she made when the synod elected her to serve as bishop.

"I promised you to show up. Then I thought, `What did I say'?" she said. After the laughter, she continued, "But for us to meet, you need to show up, too."

Refreshments were served following the service.

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