Eve of the episcopal consecration in Lapua
Dear sisters and brothers,
Evening is a time of repentance and confession. When and if we are willing to look at the past, at the day that is drawing to a close, inevitably we have many reasons to ask for forgiveness.
In his classic evening prayer Martin Luther says, and we can suppose he did this almost every night of his life, ”I pray that you would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong”. Tonight we all have already confessed, ”that we have sinned in thought, word and deed”, and we will later join in the prayer of Luther.
Martin Luther, whom you, dear brother Simo, know something of, has often said, that the whole life of a Christian should be nothing else but repentance. So, also this evening, before the consecration tomorrow we have to kneel before Almighty God. With the words of our psalm tonight we can ask: ”Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress, be merciful and hear my prayer.” (Ps. 4)
Maybe there are also special reasons for repentance, confession and humility on the eve of a great ecclesial celebration. The church is not and should not be a house of triumph, power and glory, far from that. The church of Christ is and has to be the house of fallen and sinful people, a hospital full of only sick and weak people. In the word of God we just heard, the prophet Isaiah speaks about ”weary”, ”weak” and ”tired” people. Just for people like that our Lord God will give his word and mercy.
Some of us oldies, who have the opportunity to be present at your consecration tomorrow, may think, that you, dear Simo, are – in the words of the prophet – like ”young men”, or with another word from the Bible, like a lion.
But at the same time we all have to remember the hard and critical word of Isaiah, when he says, that ”even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall”. (Is. 40:29-31)
So we all are in the same position, in the status of necessary humility, repentance and confession. Today, and even tomorrow, are not in our hands, not in the hands of those who are laying hands on you, not in the hands of the bishops nor in the hands of the church. The future, our future and your future is only in the hands of our Lord.
But if and when we ask for forgiveness and so give the glory only to our Lord, he, on his side, will give us everything we need. With the words of the prophet: ”but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
So, there are reasons to go to the bed with a good and hopeful conscience, remembering the words of the psalm: ”I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” And therefore we do not have hope only for the coming night, but also for tomorrow and for our whole life until eternity.