Bishop’s Episcopal Address: Quite Enough Love for All of Us

May 31, 2023
Bishop Lanette Plambeck addresses more than 600 Minnesota United Methodists in St. Cloud / Photos by David Haines

By: Christa Meland

When was a time when the Creator of heaven and earth stopped you in your tracks? What were you doing? Who were you with? How were you made aware of God-with-us with you? 

In her inaugural Episcopal Address at the 2023 Annual Conference Session in St. Cloud, Bishop Lanette Plambeck told a story about a time when God stopped her in her tracks. She was at a restaurant with her covenant group during a conference at Lake Junaluska when she met Jade, a server whose soul was visibly wounded. Jade told the group her story about being tangled in domestic violence, mental health crises, homelessness, separation from her children, working double shifts, and incredible isolation. The group knew that doing nothing was not an option so they pooled their resources to help cover expenses at a hotel where she was staying, and they pointed her to local United Methodist churches. When they checked in on Jade again the next day, she excitedly shared some positive developments in her life. God had put the world right for her and made what seemed impossible possible again.
That’s exactly what happened in the Emmaus Road story, said Bishop Lanette: The impossible becomes possible as the world is made right again through encounters with the resurrected Christ who brings healing, reconciliation, and hope. It’s the story for the two disciples on the road, and it’s our story too.
During her address, Bishop Lanette explored the biblical story of the Road to Emmaus, found only in the Gospel of Luke, and set the scene by describing the encounter of two brokenhearted disciples on their way home. Cleopas and his unnamed companion had witnessed Jesus’ ministry, but the events of the previous week, including the crucifixion, had left them disheartened and confused.

Bishop Lanette invited those gathered to anoint each another with oil while saying "I love you."

Bishop Lanette pointed out that the original biblical text says the two disciples were not merely talking on the road but rather engaged in a spirit of disagreement when Jesus joined them, unnoticed, on their journey.  She also noted the original language of the question Jesus asked the disciples that stopped them in their tracks: “What words are these that you exchange with one another walking?”
With this question, Jesus intentionally drew them out of their conflict and redirected their attention on him, and suddenly, they were realigned—not yet realizing the identity of the stranger walking with them but remembering what they meant to one another and the journey they had been on together. And they began to share about Jesus.

“We see on the road to Emmaus prevenient and justifying grace,” said Bishop Lanette. “I want to suggest today that we also see sanctifying grace.”
As soon as Jesus joined the disciples on the road, he could have done a great “ta-da, here I am.” But he recognized something: They needed the journey. And it wasn't just Jesus with whom they needed reconciliation, redemption, and restoration; they needed it with each other to be able to get to a place where they could fully recognize that their companion on the road was indeed the risen Christ.
Bishop Lanette Plambeck delivered her inaugural Episcopal Address as resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area.

Once they recognized him, they returned with haste to their truest community in Jerusalem, proclaiming that Jesus is risen and they were no longer the same. They relayed this singular truth of the resurrection that is the foundation of our faith.
“This that we’re experiencing in The United Methodist Church—this is not a crisis of theological interpretation,” said Bishop Lanette. “This isn’t about understanding or valuing scripture differently than one another. My friends, we are in a sanctification crisis…What we are invited to do is to do life together…You and I have an obligation to be healers and hope carriers in this world, working for justice, advocacy, sharing our faith stories, developing people in their own faith formation…God needs us, I believe, to do better, to be better.”
Bishop Lanette issued an invitation: “I wonder if you would just join with me in leaning in—leaning in to one another in this room and declaring that there is indeed enough love for all of us.”
She reminded those gathered and watching online: You are loved. You are a child of God and a person of worth. There are no exceptions.
As we look to the future, she urged attendees to lean in to: the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbors; the Great Commission of making disciples; the Great Requirement from Micah to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God; and the Great Proclamation to proclaim good news.
“We need to be able to say to one another that in this very room, there is enough space. In this very room, there is enough love for all of us. Because if we can’t say it in this room with the deepest of belief and integrity, how in the world could we bear witness to it outside of this room?...In this very room, there is quite enough love for all of us.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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