The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray
we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Greetings from Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love!
(Actually, most of our meetings are in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River. But we won't quibble over a few miles.)
I am at the 16th Biennial Assembly of the African Descent Lutheran Association. The event is being held jointly with the Union of Black Episcopalians. Our opening Eucharist was celebrated last night at The Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion in Philadelphia. It was a glorious worship, with uplifting music and a thankful assembly. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm including a few photos with today's post.
Just a couple quick thoughts on this coming Sunday's readings. You might notice that a portion of the assigned Gospel reading is the verses that were omitted from the middle of last week's text. In these verses Jesus tells his listeners a string of five parables describing the kingdom of heaven. He likens it to mustard seed, yeast, buried treasure, a pearl, and a fish net. Jesus tells us these stories, in rapid-fire succession, with a sense of urgency, because he wants us-you, me and everyone else in the world to know how much God loves us. It is central to the life of faith to know how much our God values us and everything that we do. This is why all these kingdom parables are so important to us.
The second reading from Paul's letter to the Roman Christians addresses the topic of prayer.
I'm constantly mindful that Jesus prayed frequently. If you read through the Gospels, you'll find Jesus in prayer before every important decision, before every difficult situation.
So this should raise the question within us: if Jesus often prayed, how much more do we need to pray?
The famed Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, who grounded his theology in the practice of prayer, is quoted as saying: "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
Prayer calls you and me and all of us to join in the building of God's kingdom not up in heaven, but here, on earth, to make it a reign of justice, healing, mercy, and love.
As a parish pastor, and even as bishop, I spend a part of every day praying for and with people, interceding for God's people, bringing their needs before God. The duties of my office include talking and speaking, advising and comforting, and praying. Yet even I often find myself struggling to find the right words, to figure out what to ask for, or even what to say. I'm sure that has been your experience as well.
Most of the time, by the way, the disciples didn't seem to know or understand what they were asking for, which makes them once again pretty much like us.
The Good News from Paul is that the Spirit speaks up for us, intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words, pleads our case for us to God, saying what we wish we could say.
This coming Sunday afternoon I will be at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Sharon Center, to install the Rev. Thomas Fox.
Blessings to Kathryn Jacob, who was called to serve Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Massillon. We will be announcing an ordination service in the near future.
May God's Good Spirit fill your lives with joy and peace this week and always.
+Bishop Abraham Allende