On Sunday, June 25 the Rev. Blaston Tuluwene Gaville was consecrated and installed as the new bishop of the Iringa Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Some six thousand Christians from across the region joined representatives from other dioceses, government officials, and foreign companions in celebrating the occasion. Bishop Patricia Lull of the Saint Paul Area Synod was invited to preach. The sermon, inspired by the call of Matthew the tax collector, focused on vocation and what happens when one responds to Jesus' request to follow him. Excerpts are included below. Visit the Saint Paul Area Synod website to read the full message. Photos from the day can be viewed here.
...Each one of us has a story about how we have come to know and love God. For Bishop-elect Gaville, I am sure your heart is full of memories today of all the people who have helped you grow in faith: your parents and your many brothers and sisters; your own family - Pamela and the children; these other pastors and teachers in the church (gathered today); and the elders, who taught you God's ways when you were young... You did not come to this day of consecration all on your own. We will make sure that you do not leave here without the abundance of our prayers and encouragement for you.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we hear the story of the call of Matthew the tax collector. Matthew worked in the city of Capernaum, where Jesus also lived as a young man. Capernaum is a city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and there was much commercial traffic as the caravans passed back and forth from there to the large city of Damascus. It must have looked like the busy highways in and out of Iringa town... [One] day, Jesus said to Matthew the tax collector - Follow me. Two little words but for Matthew those words changed everything. We do not volunteer to become God's disciples. No, we come to follow Jesus because God calls us through the power of the Holy Spirit to leave our old life and to take up a new life in Jesus Christ.
That day Matthew walked away from his good paying job. He stood up and stepped away from the tax booth. He waved good-bye to all the security that he had wrapped around his life. And he obeyed that call of Jesus to come follow him as a disciple of the Living God. Does that sound like anyone here?
For five years Bishop Gaville worked as a cashier at Ilula Hospital. This past week I stood inside that office, looking out the small window where people come to pay their bills
. It says MALIPO (payment) on the door. Bishop Gaville told me that it hurt his heart to see people in need and to have no way to help them fully. Right there, Jesus called him like Matthew to become a pastor...
Bishop Gaville, long ago in your baptism God called you into life in Christ. You also have a rich story of your calling, your vocation as a man of God. You are a pastor in the Church of Jesus Christ. And now through the work of the Holy Spirit, you have been elected to serve as the Bishop for the Iringa Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
I am certain you did not imagine that when you were a young boy - even with a father who was a pastor. No doubt you had other goals and plans for your life. Maybe your family even wonders what you have gotten them into now. But all along the Holy Spirit has been at work, preparing you for the service to which you are now called...
Last fall, the Spirit of our Living God was present when you were chosen for this office. You did not volunteer anymore than Matthew walked away from the tax booth on his own initiative. You were elected. With your unique gifts and talents and character traits - you were the one selected to bear the joys and the burdens of this office of bishop. Do not waste a moment wondering how you got to this day. You are here and ready to be consecrated because Jesus called you and you followed him in obedience...
Bishop Blaston Gaville, God has been with you from the beginning of your life. The God of mercy and kindness has never abandoned you. The God who came to us in Jesus Christ, living and dying so that we all might have life eternal, has called you into this new office. And God will hold you close every day to come.
Through you and the faithful people of the Iringa Diocese, God will do amazing things in the villages and the cities, among farmers and merchants, schoolchildren and young adults, mothers and fathers - and grandparents too. God will show others what mercy looks like in daily life. Thanks be to God. AMEN.
The Rev. Patricia Lull
Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod