To Live is Christ

Dear beloved in the Lord,

On Tuesday of this week I spent some time in the cemetery at Nashotah House. My aim was to visit the grave of the Rt. Rev. Arthur Vogel, son of this diocese and fifth bishop of West Missouri. I had the privilege of serving in that diocese for the first six years of my ordained ministry and was blessed by his ministry as a pastor and mentor. His care for me as a newly ordained member of the clergy set an example that I have tried to follow in my ministry as bishop.

The only time I had been at his grave was on the day we interred his remains and so it took me a while to locate it. While I was looking for it I came upon the graves of many of my predecessors, Bishop Nicholson, Bishop Ivins, Bishop Hallock and Bishop Gaskell. Finally, I came upon the tomb of Bishop Kemper, first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church and first bishop of this diocese. On the side of the tomb were these words, “to live is Christ.”

Reading those words my mind turned to the words of the Apostle Paul to which they referred, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain “(Philippians 1:21). The Apostle continues, “if I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor to me. (v.22).”

It was no accident that I was lead to Kemper’s tomb that day. Later, I was reminded that the day of my visit was the day that we commemorate Bishop Kemper in our liturgical calendar. It is the day we remember his leadership in the great missionary work of our Church in the nineteenth century beginning with the General Convention of 1835 at which he was elected. The existence of this diocese and many others is the result of his fruitful labor.

To live is Christ. That means we live no longer for ourselves but for him, Jesus the Christ, who is the model for human living and the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. If the one we call Lord gave his life for others then we who follow him must give of our lives, too. We do this by putting the good of all above what just benefits us. We live the call to love our neighbor by remembering that all are our neighbors in God’s eyes.

I believe it is time for us as the Diocese of Milwaukee to reclaim this missionary heritage by reaching out to our communities by proclaiming the good news of God in Jesus with our lips and in our lives. The Gospel is the only antidote to the self-centeredness and self-absorption that is the besetting sin our time. Sharing the Gospel begins by building relationships with the neighbors we encounter every day though praying for them by name during our times of private prayer and asking God to lead us to see how we might share our faith with them. Please join me this month in intentional prayer.

The current climate in our state and in our world makes it clear that we have a mission to fulfill. Let us labor on and pray for a fruitful harvest.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller