November 6, 2017

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
[Matthew 5:13]
 
As we enter the final three weeks of the church year, our readings are filled with images of the last days. At first glance, we read a lot about death and destruction. Believe me, these words are as tough to preach on as they are tough to hear. Many pastors I know look for ways to avoid these readings and look for happier, or less gloomy passages to preach on. After all, how can any talk about death be good news?

What these readings help us keep in mind is that death is real. Death is a part of life. Statistics bear out that one out of every one of us will die. When that final minute will come and how it will happen is known only to God.
 
Those faithful who attended morning services at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday, certainly didn't expect that death would greet them so abruptly. Today, their families grieve, as do we, over the unexpected irrational and horrific tragedy that, unfortunately, appears to be becoming a far too familiar experience in our society. It seems as if every weekend, we brace ourselves to expect some sort of mass shooting or other senseless act of violence.
 
Community Vigil at Sutherland Springs, TX - Courtesy of Mark Mulligan, the Houston Chronicle
As we go through this week in preparation for Sunday, we grieve, but not, as the apostle Paul states, "as others do who have no hope." All for us, as Christians, does not end in oblivion, and certainly not in hopelessness.
 
Though we still feel the pain and sting of loss, though we shake our heads in bewilderment at the cruel savagery of certain groups or individuals, and though we may rage at the politics and policies of gun control; we are above all, mindful that we serve a God of love, a God of hope, a God who commands us to love and care for one another as God loves and cares for us.
 
That hope is expressed in our relationships with each other. When we take on the nature of God, we live with hope and a sense of worth and do so with and for others.
 
The adversity in this world, and the uncertainty of our life, cannot overpower the nature of God. In the words of the blessed Martin Luther as sung in "A Mighty Fortress," which many of us sang repeatedly last week:
 
Though hordes of devils fill the land
all threatening to devour us,
we tremble not, unmoved we stand;
they cannot overpower us.
Were they to take our house,
goods, honor, child, or spouse,
though life be wrenched away,
they cannot win the day.
The kingdom's ours forever!*
 
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Saturday, November 11, I will be with our Episcopalian sisters and brothers as they gather in Cleveland for the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Ohio and celebrate their Bicentennial. In 1999, the ELCA and the Episcopal Church entered into an agreement entitled "  Called to Common Mission. " The document describes the relationship, which allows both church bodies to share pastors and share the Eucharist at each other's congregations.
 
This unity in the Gospel that we share is visible in a number of ways in our synod. Several of our Northeastern Ohio pastors are serving as Episcopal priests. And most recently, our Latino Mission, Sagrado Coraz√≥n, began worshipping at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, in Akron.  We are blessed by the full-communion partnership we share with the Episcopal Church.
 
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Sunday, November 12 , in the morning, I will be with the people of God at St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Sharon Center.
 
That same afternoon, I will be at Trinity, Lakewood, to install the Rev. Sara Cogsil as pastor of Trinity. Please note that the installation will take place at Lakewood Congregational Church Chapel, 1375 West Clifton Boulevard, Lakewood, OH 44107. Rostered ministers are invited to vest and process. The service begins at 4:30 p.m.
 
+++
 
This week and always, may you live in hope and encourage one another, trusting in God's word and the promise of salvation.
+Bishop Abraham Allende


* The reader will note that I have taken the liberty of conflating verses three and four for purposes of this writing.
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