I have a timing app on my phone called "Countdown." It reminds me of how much time is left until a particular event.
As the advertisement for the app describes it: It can countdown to your events in many different units! Years, Months, Days, Hours, Minutes, Seconds or Heartbeats!
I frequently need those types of reminders because my life can be frittered away in details. We are already one month into the year 2018; and as we enter this new year, I look upon all that lies ahead for us as a synod, as the Church, and as the people of God. I want to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
We are already gearing up for another Northeastern Ohio Synod Assembly. Though it is still four months away (four months and 11 days as you read this), there is work to be done in identifying candidates for the various elected offices that we will vote on in June. The largest number of those will be voting members to the Churchwide Assembly that takes place in August of 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Yes, we elect them a year ahead of time!)
Throughout our synod, many of our young people are eagerly preparing for the ELCA Youth Gathering which takes place in Houston, just three weeks after our assembly. There is work to be done in Houston in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes that hit that area last year. This gives the young people a greater purpose for going there to give witness to Christ's presence as they help in the rebuilding and rehabilitation projects that await them.
Despite the short turnaround, these youths are enthusiastically making plans to be a part of the synod assembly once again this year. I, for one, could not be more pleased.
As we count down the days, we prepare. We assign responsibilities, develop timetables, and check off those tasks that have been completed.
And we wait.
That's the most challenging part - waiting.
The countdown apps, while helpful tools, can also become a source of frustration. In general, we humans are not very patient. We want immediate results and outcomes. Waiting can be exhausting.
But our waiting for assemblies and gatherings pales in comparison to the situation of the people from Judah and Jerusalem, to whom Isaiah speaks in the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday.
They had been in exile in Babylon for almost half a century. Now with the Persian Empire on the rise, the demise of the Babylonians was drawing near. They were eager to return home.
To the people of Judah, and to us, the prophet speaks words of encouragement and hope. "Wait for the Lord," Isaiah says. "Our future depends on the Lord."
"Waiting for the Lord"
suggests to me that, despite all our planning and preparation, God is our chief source of strength and guidance. It is God who calms our fears and enables us to get our act together.
When we trust in God and God's love for us, and entrust our lives to the one who gave his life for us on the cross, everything else is dwarfed in comparison to the largeness and authority of the Lord. God is bigger than any plans we make or any problem we might face. And as we learn to wait and trust in God, we begin to see things from God's perspective. As the age-old truism goes, "Let go, and let God."
I end with the following prayer that we pray at Vespers and that corresponds perfectly with our thoughts:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The issues of sexism are dominating the headlines these days. It is rather timely, therefore, that the ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice: One in Christ, has developed a "Draft of a Social Statement on Women and Justice." You are invited you to read and evaluate the statement, which is available by clicking on the above title.
Among many important theological themes, the draft stands upon the Lutheran emphasis that we are justified by grace through faith. It explores how this marvelous gift urges, even empowers, us to challenge the structures of patriarchy and sexism because they prevent all people from living the abundant lives God intends.
You can read the draft and respond by September 30 of this year. You may also choose to attend an upcoming hearing in our synod. Those dates will be announced soon.
I will be in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Tuesday and Wednesday with our four TEEM students, as they begin theological studies that will lead to ordination into Word and Sacrament ministry in three years.
TEEM is an acronym for Theological Education for Emerging Ministries. The program provides alternative preparation for those who will provide pastoral ministry in emerging ministry contexts throughout the church, e.g., ethnic-specific ministries, rural, or otherwise underserved congregations. It is a way to address the ministry shortage in the church and meet the needs of those small congregations that cannot afford full time pastoral ministry.
Thursday, I will be at
Our Savior's in Rocky River
to meet with our rostered ministers in the Cleveland West Conference for discussion, fellowship and worship. A scheduling conflict prevented us from meeting in the fall, when we normally hold this gathering. I look forward to these gatherings and to strengthening the relationship between our office and the rostered ministers whom we serve.
Thursday evening, I will be with the congregational council of Prince of Peace in Poland, as they prepare to begin the call process.
Sunday morning, I will be with the people of God at St. John's Lutheran Church in Highland Heights.
Sunday afternoon, I will stop in to visit with the Northeastern Ohio Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) Board, as they meet at the Lutheran Center.
This week and always, may God, the perfect Light of revelation that shone in the life of Jesus, so shine in us and through us, that we may become beacons of truth and compassion, enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy.
+Bishop Abraham Allende