Editor’s note: President Robert Bugbee gave the following address on Sunday, following his reelection on Saturday.
by Robert Bugbee
I remember six years ago when I was first elected to this task that my very gracious predecessor gave me two days to think about what it all meant before he asked me to come forward on the Sunday afternoon of the Convention and to deliver a more thought-out response to the delegates.
We shouldn’t be silly about these things. We all realize that re-election to a third term does not carry with it the drama that was there the first time around. I personally don’t feel quite the same suspense I felt in those summer days of 2008 when I wondered what all of this might mean. I imagine the church’s expectations may not run quite so high as they did then, either. After all, you pretty well know what you’re getting, and the incumbent president’s shortcomings are by now just as evident as any virtues I might bring with me into the new triennium.
I told the delegates in 2008 that my godly teachers at the Seminary had trained me basically to be a pastor and a preacher. I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of doing that work when I graduated, and I tell you quite frankly that I feel there’s nothing else quite like it. What greater privilege could there ever be than to be permitted on a weekly basis to stand up in a public place and to point out to fellow sinners the way to heaven? My own beloved spiritual father, Pastor Harold Roschke of Waverly, Iowa, showed me in his preaching when I was a college student what a relief it is to be able to run and hide yourself by faith in the open wounds of Jesus, crucified for us. That Christ Who died in our place has been the animating joy of my life since I came to know Him well 40 years ago. I thank Him for the many years He allowed me to do for others what Pastor Roschke did for me, and that is to hold out to people the Saviour of the world.
That Christ Who died in our place has been the animating joy of my life since I came to know Him well 40 years ago. I thank Him for the many years He allowed me to do for others what Pastor Roschke did for me, and that is to hold out to people the Saviour of the world.
I never expected as a young preacher I would be doing things like getting invited to a state dinner for Queen Elizabeth at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto, or sitting across the table at the Vatican with the Cardinal who runs the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I never expected to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking tea with two old Cree grandmothers way up at Sucker River, Saskatchewan, or to run back and forth between the pulpit and the pump organ in the little Anglican cathedral chapel in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which was borrowed for our Lutheran services and where the Synod president had to do that running because the regular organist for the day wasn’t there. I never expected to be sitting in a cramped, hot car on a country road in northern Mozambique, where a young African Christian man was explaining to me for the first time just why AIDS is such a threatening problem on that continent, and how the Good News of Christ provides the ultimate liberation from that threat, a lesson I never understood before until he explained how these things work. I never expected to receive so much undeserved affirmation from my predecessors, Presidents Lehman and Mayan, in spite of the fact that their work, in my view, stands head-and-shoulders above anything I have been able to do.
In short, I never expected to serve as the President of Synod, an honour which has been bestowed on me three times by our Convention. I deeply appreciate your kindness, dear brothers and sisters. I cannot say that I understand it exactly, and I’m not even sure I agree with the action you’ve taken in re-electing me, but I do deeply appreciate it. And I am willing once again to embrace it. Please believe that.
I never expected to serve as the President of Synod, an honour which has been bestowed on me three times by our Convention. I deeply appreciate your kindness, dear brothers and sisters. I cannot say that I understand it exactly, and I’m not even sure I agree with the action you’ve taken in re-electing me, but I do deeply appreciate it. And I am willing once again to embrace it.
With all due regard to those marvelous experiences I have had in Canada and abroad these past six years, the big thrill for me is still where it always was: in seeing beautiful faces like yours in front of me when I got to preach downtown the night before last, and in laying the healing body of Christ into the mouths of regular, run-of-the-mill people who come to the Lord’s Table because they need Him as desperately as I do. I can only hope that the pastors of our Synod feel this joy at being privileged like that. I can only hope that our deacons have a deep sense of the honour of serving as teachers and encouragers in the faith. I can only hope that the lay men and women and boys and girls across our church would treasure what a wonder it is that God’s holy Son, Who didn’t owe us a dime—because we were the crooks and the thieves—would come down into our world and give Himself to be our everlasting Rescuer.
In some small way, I hope that the task God is entrusting to me for the coming three years will help our pastors and our people see the glory in this Gospel, and in the work you share in Alfalfa Junction, or whatever your town happens to be called. Thanks again for the honour you have done me with this election. God in Christ pour out on you all His joy and grace and blessing!