December 4, 2017

A voice cries out:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
[Isaiah 40:3-4 NRSV]
 Lectionary Readings
 1st Sunday in Advent
  * Isaiah 40:1-11
  * Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
  * 2 Peter 3:8-15a
  * Mark 1:1-8
I begin with a confession.
This past weekend was overwhelmingly busy for me. I had a pastor's funeral on Friday, a building dedication on Saturday, and a parish visitation on Sunday. So, I have had extremely little time to reflect on the readings for this coming Second Sunday of Advent.
But thanks be to God, I have read, written, and preached extensively on the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, which happens to be a personal favorite. So, what follows are snippets of previously published "stuff" that I've accumulated over the years for such a time as this, when I need to reach for something in a pinch. I pray you'll understand and forgive my slothfulness on this occasion.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you've ever heard any recordings of speeches or sermons by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, you can't help but be drawn to this Isaiah passage - a portion of which appears above - because of the rhythmic way he proclaims it.
I hadn't seen it as much more than pretty imagery. But when you think more about it, can you imagine how difficult it is to build a straight highway, lower a mountain, or level uneven ground?
Construction workers today do it all the time. But think about back in the prophets' day, when there was no earth moving equipment. Those people had a difficult task. That work was usually done by slaves, or people who were looked down upon, regarded as less important by the rich and powerful of that time.
As Christians, we are the construction workers who are given the task of building the road of faith, or making straight the path of the lord.
The good news is that God is the greatest earth moving equipment that there is.
The job of modern day disciples during this season of Advent is to help point the way to Christ's coming; and in so doing, deepen our own understanding of God's way in our own lives, so that in God's journey toward us and our journey toward God one doesn't have to have one's eyes fixed on the ground, but can look ahead confidently at the direction one is taking.
We don't have to be great evangelists, great pastors, or great expounders of the bible.  We don't even have to be perfect.  We are simply called, through our baptism, to announce the good news and seek to live by the good news - and then get out of the way of others on their pathway to God.
What is beyond us is not beyond God. 
On Tuesday evening, the Executive Council of the Northeastern Ohio Synod meets at the Lutheran Center. This is our regular meeting which normally takes place a month before Synod Council gathers on January 20, 2018.
Sunday morning, December 10, I will celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent with the people of God at St. John Lutheran Church in East Liverpool.
Later that same Sunday, at 4:00 p.m., I will be at St. John Lutheran Church, Canal Fulton, to install Pastor Cindy Striker. We invite rostered leaders to vest and process. The color of the day is blue.
This week and always, may God give us a spirit of courage that we may boldly proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
 [Blessing based on 1 Peter 1:9]
+Bishop Abraham Allende