October 1, 2018
The Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone..."
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, October 7, 2018, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
Greetings from Chicago!
I am attending the Fall Conference of Bishops, as is usual every first week in October. Although I don't always feel at ease being away from home, I do enjoy being in the presence of my colleagues. This has become, over the course of my four years in this office, the community to which I turn for support and encouragement, advice and counsel, for fellowship and collaboration. The women and men of this conference are dedicated servants of Christ's Church, and these six days that I spend with them are life-giving to my ministry.
Those who have heard me speak or preach know that I talk ad nauseam about relationship. It is a core value of my call both as pastor and bishop that is deeply rooted in my sense of identity.
Our Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday is a portion of one of the two creation stories that we read in Genesis. We hear it read most often at weddings because of the line spoken by God that, "It is not good that the man should be alone."
However, to simply hear it as a wedding passage severely limits its significance. On a broader level, the lesson's basic purpose was to show the ancient Israelites the importance of being joined one to another.
Humans were created as social beings. Our most fundamental human need is to be in relationship with someone.
One of the worst ways to punish anyone is to isolate them. That's why we have prisons. And even in prisons, the worst offenders are placed in solitary confinement. One of the worst forms of torture in wartime is to take the enemy and put him in isolation and deprive him of the company of his fellow captives. When children misbehave often they are told to go to their room. It is a scientific fact that newborns can die if they do not experience human touch. Even if they do not die, they may be psychologically scarred for life.
In short, our identity, our sense of self-worth, and the character of our maturity are all shaped by the quality of our relationships, of our deep bonds with significant others.
It is not good that the man should be alone.
The most natural relationships we develop are with our family. From birth, God gives us at least one person - a mother - who will care for us and develop our well-being, to be a reflection of God's love for us.
We are born into a biological community. As we grow, we seek that sense of community in school, in social or civic clubs, athletic teams, and in church.
Of all these, the church, the faith community, sets itself apart in that it not only gives us a sense of belonging, but also seeks union with God, who makes it all possible.
In his book, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen writes about three levels of relationship: relationship to self, relationship to others, and relationship to God. He states: "In the Christian community we say to each other, 'We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other...we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond our togetherness.'"[i]
One of the issues we are wrestling with here at the Conference of Bishops is how to best remind each other that, as people of God, we are more than our human accomplishments, but part of a larger community that extends beyond the local congregation, beyond our synod, beyond the ELCA, and into the world. How does, "We are church for the sake of the world," become more than just a catchy slogan?
I invite you to peruse the Future Directionspage on the ELCA website, which you can access by clicking on the title. May it renew in you that sense of being part of a church that is called to be in relationship with each other and in relationship with God.
This first Monday in October marks the second anniversary of Monday Musings.
At any milestone we pause to reflect.
In the very first offering of this weekly reflection I wrote the following: My plan is to make this what the title implies; random thoughts and contemplations on the week ahead, with an occasional look backward, but primarily focused forward. At times, the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday will inform my thoughts, but if the occasion warrants, it will be something other than those assigned texts.
As with any ongoing endeavor, over time it evolves into something that doesn't always resemble what was originally intended. It matures into a consistent pattern that takes an identifiable shape and develops its own customary characteristics. Hopefully, it has become a welcome habit to you, the reader for whom it was envisioned.
I appreciate your occasional feedback and will continue to strive to keep the content fresh, relevant, thought-provoking, and most of all, readable.
I will be back in the office on Wednesday to meet with our conference Deans.
Thursday, I will be at First Lutheran in Lorain to meet with the rostered ministers of the Cleveland West Conference.
Saturday, Grace, Austintown will host our second Bishop's Gathering, "Faithful, Adventurous, And Tenacious: Some How-To Steps for Council Leaders". We gather at 9:00 a.m. and go until noon. See the Northeastern Ohio Synod website for more information.
Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m., I will be among the good people of Advent Lutheran Church in Cleveland to join them in their Unity Day Celebration.
This week and always, may our faith be like that of a child, which sets for us an example of how we are to stand before God-open and trusting.
+Bishop Abraham Allende
[i] Henry Nowen,
the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life.
New York, Doubleday (p. 153)