On Pentecost Monday, Zoltán Balog, ministerial president of the Synod of RCH, was inaugurated as Bishop in the city of Nagykőrös. The dedication service of the Bishop of the Danubian Reformed Church District, who was elected last November and took office in January, has been delayed due to COVID-19.
In his sermon at the festive church service, Béla Kató, Bishop of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District (Cluj, Romania) stressed the importance of the leaders' ministry, saying that the future of the community depends on them. There is not a single corner in society that Christians can abandon, be it in any part of the Carpathian Basin, he added.
The Bishop received blessings from the Reformed fellow Bishops from the Carpathian Basin and the deans of the presbyteries of the Church District. It is interesting to note that Zoltán Balog received the blessing on the same kneeling cushion which was already used by Bishop Pál Török, the founder of the Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest, at his inauguration on 5th July 1860.
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„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)
"IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CLING ONLY TO WHAT IS VISIBLE"
“At the first Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave believers the strength to live and the courage to die. What more could we ask for today, in the midst of a pandemic,” asked Béla Kató in his sermon.
“The Great Designer could not have prepared a more fitting and worthy occasion for the Bishop’s consecration than the day of Pentecost,” said Bishop Kató referring to the fact that due to the pandemic the event had to be delayed at multiple occasion. The Bishop added that the community is praying for strengths for the leader, but if he had to fulfil his ministry alone, it would be the most tiring task of his life. “But receiving the Holy Spirit, his ministry will flourish. To serve in the Spirit of God offers new ways for leadership," he encouraged Zoltan Balog and the audience. What is the Spirit? Every person believes - at least in some form - in the Spirit. Friendship, love, a sense of duty, joy - all these are planted in us through the Spirit. It is undeniably present in our lives, speaking to us and working in us.
Hidden forces govern us. It is impossible to cling only to the visible. But there are many different spirits and ethoi ruling the world, the Bishop warned. Pentecost is a celebration of the outpouring of the Spirit. Yet we do not always feel its proximity, because we allow many other powers - such as the spirit of the age, money and our ego - to dominate us, and they tend to supersede the Holy Spirit, who thus seems to be absent – at least for a certain period of time. It is solely the Holy Spirit who is able to alleviate our deep longing for good order. We must follow the example of the Apostle Paul in this, who, when he encountered the Spirit of Jesus, felt that he could surrender himself to Him in full and unconditional obedience. At the first Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave believers the strength to live and the courage to die. What more could we ask for in the midst of a pandemic? - asked the Bishop from Transylvania.
Bishop Kató stressed that those who received the power of the Spirit will immediately ask the question, what to do, how to act. Just like the three thousand present at the first Pentecost who asked the same. The disciples received a quick answer as to what their duty was. We, today's disciples and servants, are also told what to do. “At this event, we are particularly attentive to the task and the message that God gives to the Bishop who is being consecrated and to us, as fellow servants," the bishop said, adding that “Apostle Paul is not directing the leaders' attention to themselves because he wants them to be selfish, but because he knows how important the service entrusted to them is.”
According to Béla Kató, the future of the Christian community stands and falls on the leaders: “Strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered,” he quoted from the Gospel reminding fellow church officers of the difficult road ahead surpassing our strength. “Tighten the straps of your sandals well,” he urged.
The second message of the passage from Acts is equally important: leaders shall keep watch over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made then overseers. The Hungarian Reformed Church has often struggled with the question, what actually "all the flock" means. According to the Scripture, everyone is included. “We cannot deny our responsibility for those who may still be blinded today, whose vision is impaired and observe everything that happens in the Christian community with hatred. The black sheep are also members of the flock, so there is not a single segment of society that we could forsake," affirmed Béla Kató.
“It is the Holy Spirit who posts watchmen on the walls, he gives them legitimate authority to carry out their ministry. This is how the Spirit legitimizes our ministry. Our duty comes from God. He has entrusted to us the Church, which he has redeemed by his own blood. This is an incredible honour and responsibility at the same time", said the Bishop, and referring to Zoltán Balog's earlier political commitment, he continued, addressing his fellow Bishop: God has formed his government, and he has chosen us to be his servants - in other words, his ministers. “Now, my dear Bishop, you have received, in addition to the Ministry of Human Resources, the ministry of godly resources as well. These two together represent a task that one rarely gets. But I am sure that today, at this Pentecost, God's Holy Spirit will descend on you and help you in this ministry. We are here; we will be here, too. Where so many people come together and pray, the gates of Hades will not overcome the church.
May the Lord Bless You
After the sermon Zoltán Balog received the blessings of the bishops of the reformed Churches in the Carpathian Basin and the deans of the Danubian Church District. It is interesting to note that Zoltán Balog received the blessing on the same kneeling cushion which was already used by Bishop Pál Török, the founder of the Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest, at his inauguration on 5th July 1860.
WE NEED TO STAND UP FOR ALL PEOPLE
"We have only one high priest, Jesus Christ", Zoltán Balog began his inaugural address, adding that as a bishop he was elected by the Church to serve the people of God.
It is the joint privilege of all Christians to demonstrate that being close to Jesus Christ is a blessing. “Even when we are poor in spirit, even when there is weeping, illness, or death around. But it is also gentleness, because whenever we thirst for justice, we receive mercy. When we are pure in heart we will see God and make peace. To be together in the proximity of Jesus Christ is a joy above all. Because here, like this, all are ours.
He then quoted Apostle Paul from the letter to the Corinthians:
"So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." (1 Cor 3,21-23)
“This all might sound dangerous word, but only if men want to have everything,” he warned. God's promise tells us that we belong to each other, and we do not need to share. "Why would we want to do such a thing, when the situation is the other way round; it is not the body of Christ, the Church, that needs to be divided, but we belong to the body of Christ. It is not the Bishop who has a Church District, but the Danubian Reformed Church District has a Bishop," he reminded.
There are many plans in the church, including congregations, kindergartens, schools, elderly homes, and the plans are to be carried out. But "before we rush to action", we receive the forgiveness of sins on our journey and, in the meantime, find people with whom we can wait for the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, the miracle of Pentecost. “That is why we are here now, because God has ordered so.”
To quote the Apostle Paul, "or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours". (1 Cor 3:22) Both richness and vulnerability of our are hidden in God. “Mine too," the church leader added, mentioning his parents, his youth, his involvement in public life, his congregations in Maglód and Budapest, and his family.
“The heartbreaking and enriching reality of Hungarian Gypsies is with Christ, just like culture and science, and the people of Christ, our Church, which has taught me love, faith, resistance and surrender," the Bishop said.
Hungarian Christianity is more than us, the Reformed community, Zoltán Balog said, adding that he has also been grateful to God for all what he had received from fellow Christians from West and East. It is not the common enemy, but the common Lord, Christ, who gathers us into one camp. “We know that the Church does not start with us nor does it end with us, therefore we need to look back and forward as well”.
The Bishop recalled the words of László Ravasz, consecrated as Bishop a hundred years ago, who said, "God shows each generation in the tasks entrusted to it, how great it can become, and the tasks are the bigger the more fussy an age is around us."
“Let us not fight against the fussiness and smallness of the age, but stand up for all the those who seem to be lost; the abandoned elderly, the young without purpose, those seeking to be blessed by children. Because everything begins here, in the heart and life of individual persons - everything that matters,” added the Bishop.
Even if we have ground-breaking epochal undertakings, ambitious programmes, successful intellectual struggles, but we forsake and let down humans who are struggling with their faith, are seeking and suffering, or are elated by victories, we will become unfaithful to our mission.
For Jesus also said that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “We bear duty for the one, because if we go and find the one, the ninety-nine will also be fine. For we know that everything and everyone belongs to Christ, and also we are his.”
Come, Creator Spirit of Pentecost, and make this a reality in our lives, in our Church, in our country, in our nation, and in Europe", concluded Bishop Zoltán Balog his inaugural address.
Greeting and appreciation of church and state representatives
God's Spirit is our aid
Péter Somogyi, Vice Bishop of the Danubian Reformed Church District, recalled the Bible passage that was quoted on the day of the Bishop's formal inauguration on 25 January: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty" (Zech 4,6). “This shall guide us when we hit or finish the road where our Lord called and sent us to,” he emphasized. He expressed his conviction, that it is not human power and violence, but heavenly power, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, that makes Zoltan Balog fit to serve the glory of God.
From piety to sanctification
Károly Fekete, Bishop of the Transtibiscan Reformed Church District (Debrecen), stepped to the Lord's Table with four notions and a symbolic gift. Theologian Sándor Csikesz (1886-1940) described reformed disciples following Jesus Christ using for expressions, recalled Károly Fekete, offering them as signposts for the future journey of his newly ordained fellow Bishop. These are piety (pietas), since the Bishop must not lose sight of the spiritual aspect in any matter that arise, honesty (probitas) and humanity (humanitas), which requires observance of the commandment of love. Finally, he stressed the importance of pursuing sanctification (sanctimonia vitae). "We wish you to give an example in following these principles in your everyday life," said the Bishop of Debrecen, while handing over the reprint of the first published book of the first Bishop of Debrecen, Péter Méliusz Juhász (1532-1572) as a present.
Together in joint ministry
Tamás Fabiny, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, pointed out that Zoltán Balog has become a different kind of minister than he was a few years ago, as he became now "minister verbi Domini", i.e. minister of the Word of God.” He presented the Bishop with a reproduction of a drawing from the 19th century portraying Luther and Calvin side by side at the foot of Jesus' cross. The picture depicts the two theologians as the would be entrusted to each other by God to live as good brothers. "So let us serve together in this ministry under the cross, as disciples of Christ," concluded Tamás Fabinyi.
Joining forces will work
At the event, Péter Erdő, Catholic Archbishop of Esztergom and Budapest, also welcomed the newly consecrated Bishop. In his address, he pointed to the story of the first Pentecost reporting that the disciples “were all together in one place" (Acts 2,1). “In a changing world, with the new challenges, we increasingly feel that Christians need to stand together in solidarity and unity. If we all look to Christ first and foremost, and coming closer to Him, we will draw closer to one another, too," said the Cardinal.
Empowered to serve
Sándor Veres, Chief Elder of the Danubian Reformed Church District, emphasised that the Reformed people of the District elected Zoltán Balog as their bishop in seeking God's will. “He has instructed you to proclaim the Gospel with certainty, hope and joy, and to help congregations and institutions entrusted to you, and all those serving there, with all your strength, to do the same. Love the people entrusted to you and proclaim Christ," the Lay President advised Bishop Balog, stressing that he will not be left alone in pursuing his tasks.
The beauty of following Christ
On behalf of his friends, István Bogárdi Szabó, Bishop Balog’s predecessor offered words of greetings. “The predecessor cannot say anything else to the successor, but point to Christ. And a friend can do just the same," said the former bishop of the District and President of the Synod of RCH. He offered the same pieces of advise to Zoltán Balog, which he received from him at his inauguration eighteen years ago. “Above all, you have convinced my soul that I am not alone, just as you are not on your now. Because you belong to Christ, his will always be with you. Many of us will pray for you, even after the festive event," he said. At the same time, the pastor stressed that instead of conforming to and following the mainstream, it is important to remain faithful to God given mission of the Church. Finally, he advised his fellow bishop to "savour the beauty of following Christ! Foresee and anticipate what comes as much as you did eighteen years ago! And always overcome evil with good!” he concluded.
Spirit, soullessness, sense of values
László Kövér, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, highlighted in his greetings that the Church and the State are and has to be separated legally, but they are inseparable in their essence. “And this essence is nothing other than a community sanctified by the Spirit,” he said.
According to the President of the National Assembly, the millennial struggle for values between the Spirit and the soullessness continues also in the 21st century - albeit in a modified political scenery, with changing ideologies and different slogans, with new methodologies and instruments. But the decisive question remains the same; are we serving the Holy Spirit or support the soullessness? The speaker of the house thanked the Bishop for always leading by example in this gruesome and challenging struggle.
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