January 7, 2019
We are people created,
chosen by God.
Then we're washed, ever gently,
in mercy and love.
Sin has power no more.
Jesus opened the door
to a fountain bringing healing,
and wholeness and more.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #453]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, January 13, 2019, the Baptism of Our Lord, are as follows:
  The Alamo, the most recognizable landmark of San
Greetings from San Antonio, Texas, where we have just completed the annual Bishops' Academy. This is a time of continuing education for the bishops of the ELCA, as we gather to explore a topic that is of importance to the church. This year, we gathered under the theme "
Caring for Our Common Home: Neighbor and Neighbor-Love, For Us, Today."
As the topic implies, we addressed the issues of caring for creation, climate change, and eco-justice.
     Cynthia Moe-Lobeda           Larry Rasmussen
Our presenters were Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California; and Dr. Larry Rasmussen, Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
The following points are in no particular order and are only a smattering of the voluminous notes that I took over the course of three days:
  • Climate change changes everything, and if we continue down the same path we are in trouble.
  • Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.
  • All creation is sacred, not just human life. Therefore, we must care for our world as well as our neighbor, and our concern must be not just for the persons we see, but also for those that are yet to come.
  • God is flowing and pouring through all things. We are called to hear the liberating, transforming word of God in every creature on earth.
  • The church is called (asked) to offer wisdom hope and courage to the broader public. What will the church contribute at this time?
Both presenters were challenging and provided a wealth of material to digest and discern. From here it is my task to process the information and discern how to apply it in my vocation, in my preaching and in my teaching.
For further reading, I recommend the Summer, 2018 issue of The Holden Village Voice , which includes articles by our two presenters that cover the topics with which they engaged us over the past week.
This coming Sunday the church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord.
I love baptisms. The photo on the right is one of my favorites. It is of one of the first baptisms I performed at the last parish I served. The parents have given me blanket permission to use it for whatever purpose I feel appropriate, so I'm using it here.
W hen a child is brought to the baptismal font, the child's parents and godparents (sponsors) are asked by the pastor to make the following promises on the child's behalf:
"As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities:
  • to live with them among God's faithful people,
  • bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
  • teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
  • place in their hands the holy scriptures,
  • and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.
Do you promise to help your children grow in the Christian faith and life?"
Of course, both the parents and Godparents respond positively, but sadly, those promises are forgotten almost as soon as the parents walk out the door. So this occasion gives us the opportunity to remember not only those promises, but who we are and what our purpose is in life.
We all need reminding sometimes of the simplest, truest, most basic things in our lives, that we are God's children, named as precious and beloved. That fact is affirmed both in the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, as well as the Gospel reading.
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine," God says through the prophet Isaiah.
And in the Gospel we're reminded that God already loves us, that God is already prepared to part the heavens to get our attention that God's Holy Spirit is already working and moving among us.
We belong to God, and God loves us. This is God's fundamental attitude towards us.
  Baptismal font at St. Peter and Paul Church, Eisleben, Germany,
  where Martin Lutheran Was baptized.
This has been an emotionally difficult week for me. As you may have noted in last Wednesday's e-news, Ms. Thelma Williams, a member of our Northeastern Ohio Synod Council and the Synod Worship Committee, died on January 1.
On Saturday, January 5, I learned of the death of Gordon Straw, professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Chicago. Gordon had worked for many years as Director of Lay Education for the ELCA and I considered him a friend.
The LSTC community suffered two significant losses as their former president, the Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols, the first African American president of a Lutheran seminary, died on December 22.
Even as we grieve, we celebrate the valuable contributions of all these saints while they accompanied us on our earthly journey, and we trust in God's promise of resurrection to life everlasting.
This coming Sunday I will be with the people of God at Messiah Lutheran Church in Ashtabula, Ohio. It will be my first visit to the congregation, which was once served by our Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton.
I'm carrying this announcement over from last few weeks and will probably do a few more time. Rostered leaders, please remember that it's time to complete your annual reports. The link and instructions are available on our Wednesday e-news, or you can access the form by clicking [here].
Soon it will also be time for congregations to fill out parochial reports. They will appear on the ELCA website in early January.
This week and always, may you remember that you are precious in God's sight, honored, and loved by God.
+Bishop Abraham Allende