Bishop’s speech at the Mass of Installation, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen Cathedral of Turku, 6 June 2010
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28, NIV)
In accordance with old tradition, a bishop is consecrated “with the laying on of hands and with prayer.” Today you, dear Kari, will receive the blessing for the office of archbishop through many hands. Today, many are also praying on your behalf.
The laying on of hands and prayer date back to the Apostolic Era, to two thousand years ago. Since the Middle Ages, short Bible passages have been read to the bishop for encouragement and exhortation. The bishop is installed into office by the laying on of hands, together with people’s prayers and words from the Holy Bible. What strong support! How many persons in other positions of leadership would benefit from such a start!
A classical Bible passage meant for the bishop is the Apostle Paul’s word to the elders of the church in Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NIV)
St Paul admonishes those in positions of responsibility to take care of themselves and the entire flock. Those whose duty it is to provide direction must take special care of themselves. This then is not a matter of protecting their own positions or reputations, but rather of searching their souls.
Soul searching is a demanding duty for all in leadership positions, meaning that “the office is not for me but rather I am for the office. The more responsibility, the more deeply I have to evaluate my own motives and the goals of my actions.” In order to shepherd the entire flock, the bishop must steer his own life.
In taking care of oneself, the main issue is to ask: “whose business am I in? Am I true to the calling I committed myself to?” Even the most critical soul searching and the deepest self knowledge cannot replace the question of whose servant the bishop is.
It is the shepherd’s duty to take care of “all the flock”, that is all the people created and redeemed by God. The bishop does not simply work for a special programme, emphasis or movement. He is for the entire flock.
In a special way, the episcopal task of upholding the unity of the Church is part of the office of archbishop. You, dear Kari, are, like other bishops, the bishop of your own diocese, yet many of the duties involving the entire Church will direct you to care for the complete flock, for the oneness and union of the Church. The advantage of the whole outweighs the benefit of a particular group.
The admonition to take care of oneself and the entire flock is much more than simply a piece of advice given for the purpose of improving leadership skills. This exhortation obtains its significance from what the Apostle Paul says about the essence of the flock. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
God has bought for himself the flock St Paul writes about. In this context the thought that God talks about purchasing the flock for himself is important. In a world operating in accordance with human rules, it may be difficult to comprehend that the church belongs to God himself.
The concept that the church is God’s own does not brush aside human toil and responsibility. In the life of the church, all decisions must be characterised by an awareness that we work in a community belonging to God. Since it is God’s own flock, we are not lords over one another, nor do we own the church. Since the flock belongs to God, the bishop is only a servant, the servant both of God and of people.
It stems from the spiritual origin of the church that the bishop can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. The bishop does not start out in office solely on the basis of election results and human support. Today, the words of St Paul direct you, Kari, the new archbishop of our Church: the Holy Spirit installs you as the overseer of the entire flock, the diocese and the Church.
Together, Christ’s redemptive work and the blessing of the Holy Spirit bring about the effect that the Bible passages read today are ultimately words of promise and encouragement. St Paul’s words are reminders of who, in the final analysis, takes care of the whole flock.
All church members and all bishops have their own spiritual gifts. We are all different—but God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are one. Taking care of the church and of all its members, also of its bishops, belongs to God himself. Therefore, dear Kari, take on your office with a happy, brave and joyful heart.