January 27, 2020
Then grant that I may follow
your gleam, O glorious Light,
till earthly shadows scatter,
and faith is changed to sight;
till raptured saints shall gather
upon that shining shore,
where Christ, the blessed daystar,
shall light them evermore.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #313, stanza 2]
The assigned lectionary readings for Sunday, February 2, 2020, The Presentation of Our Lord, are as follows:
From Tuesday to Thursday of this week the synod office pastoral team will be in Columbus for the All Ohio Rostered Ministers Gathering. This is what used to be known as the Professional Leaders Retreat that has been meeting at Sawmill Creek in Huron, Ohio, for the past several years. The change in venue was necessary for a number of reasons, but more often than not, change is good.
We will gather under the theme of Practical Evangelism. Our keynote speaker will be the Rev. Jake Jacobson, who has written a book called Holy Talk: An Introduction to Scripture for the Occasionally Biblically Embarrassed. Pastor Jacobson has served Grace Lutheran Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania, for the past 35 years. He has also served as Assistant to the Bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission in the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod. He is also a spiritual director.
Our Bible study leader will be the Rev. Dr. Wally Taylor, retired professor from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, who was one of my favorite professors when I attended Trinity. Dr. Taylor has written more than 175 books and has been a frequent speaker at many congregations, synod assemblies, and continuing education events.
I look forward to gathering with our colleagues for a time of fellowship, renewal and continuing education for our rostered ministers.
This coming Sunday the church celebrates the Presentation of Our Lord, a festival that looks back at Christmas. It's hard to believe, but in the times which we live, Christmas has long been forgotten, even though it was only 40 days ago.
This is also one of those fixed-date festivals that gets buried under Groundhog Day. It also happens to fall on Sunday this year, and most eyes will be focused on the Super Bowl; a more popular, more secular, more familiar observance to our contemporary society.
Some congregations may even choose to skip the commemoration and celebrate the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany instead, but it is worth our while to look back at this celebration of the Presentation for a number of reasons.
First of all, it is what is known as a "Lesser Festival." Lesser festivals are additional days when we celebrate the life of Christ, the witness of those who accompanied him, and the gifts of God in the church. If you use the hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, in your congregation, you can find this, and other helpful explanations and definitions beginning on page 13 of the hymnal.
Secondly, to quote Philip Pfatteicher, from his New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, it is the feast that "brings the celebration of Christmas to an end, and by the Gospel's prophecy that a sword will pierce the soul of the Mother of Jesus, the day also looks ahead to the crucifixion. It is therefore a bridge between the Nativity and the Passion." [p. 70]
The theological point the evangelist Luke was trying to make is that Mary and Joseph are devout keepers of God's Law. They are doing everything according to the Torah's instruction when it comes to child-rearing. The Lord Jesus is being taught to keep God's Law perfectly. And on His 40th day, God's Son, our Savior, comes to His Father's house for the first of many times.
In the Gospel reading we are introduced to Simeon and Anna, two elderly saints who are overcome with joy and offer God the highest praise that they have been given the opportunity to lay eyes and hands upon God's infant King, the long-awaited Savior of the world.
Simeon sings that Jesus will be, "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
This is what we Lutheran Christians know as the Nunc Dimitis which traditionally was sung immediately after the Eucharist. Some churches still do.
Through the years, this festival has spawned many additional traditions. If I were to list them all, you'd be reading into next week. So I'll only mention the one that was observed in the Latino congregation I used to serve. We celebrated "La Fiesta de la Candelaria," or the Spanish equivalent of "Candlemas." People would bring candles to the church to be blessed.
The celebration, as highlighted in the Gospel reading, continues the theme of light that is central to this season. Light is important not just for us as individuals but for the world. As disciples of Jesus we are called to follow where God is leading us and let the light of Christ, the revelation of God's mercy to the world, shine in and through us.
REPORTS, REPORTS, REPORTS...
This carryover message will be repeated throughout the next several weeks, so bear with us. Rostered leaders, please remember that it's time to complete your annual reports. I do read these reports and respond as appropriate. It is also a way for us, as rostered leaders, to maintain some sense of accountability. The link and instructions will be available on our Wednesday e-news, or you can access the form by clicking HERE.
Also, Congregational reports are also due. I would ask your help in improving our response rate. Last year, 71% of our congregations submitted reports. That is a slight improvement over the previous year, but still significantly below the churchwide average, which is 78.1%.
These reports are important for a couple of reasons:
The voting member allocation for the 2022 Churchwide Assembly will be based on the reports received this coming year, so those filed in the coming year will have a direct effect on our voting member allocation.
The congregational report is like a diagnostic tool, like blood pressure or temperature taken in a doctor's office. The report is not the full picture, not a good indicator of a congregation's activities or the quality of its ministry, but it can help us to ask more questions. Annual reports such as these are used by Planning, Research, and Evaluation staff to help the churchwide organization see where the church is today and what trends are developing.
Sunday morning, I will be with the people of God at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Belleville.
Sunday afternoon, you are invited to the installation of Pastor Tina Heise, who has been called to serve Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Seville. The service begins at 4:00 p.m. Rostered leaders are invited to vest and process. The color of the Day is WHITE.
This week and always, may the Lord, our God, be both your sun and shield, bestowing grace and glory on you. [Adapted from Psalm 84]
+Bishop Abraham Allende