October 26, 2020
I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know it's true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else would do.
I love to tell the story;
'twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #661]
The readings for Sunday, November 1, 2020, All Saints Day, are as follows:
As I sit down to write this reflection for the final time, I cannot ignore the grim fact that in this country more than 228-thousand souls have succumbed to the novel coronavirus and now rest in eternity.
I am also mindful that, among those of us still living, the number of infections continue to escalate daily in record breaking numbers.
It is fitting that this year All Saints Day falls on the actual Sunday that the Church commemorates those who are no longer with us and whom we have commended to the mercy of God. In many congregations that on this day remember those faithful who have died in the past year, there will most likely be more names read than in years past.
2020 has been a somber year. Death's fearful shadow is ever present. We are worried. We are saddened. We are grieving.
But to borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, we do not "grieve as others who have no hope," [1 Thessalonians 4:13] because we who are still on this earthly pilgrimage, and as yet walk by faith, trust in God's promise of resurrection to life everlasting.
Rather than a reading from the Old Testament, the first lectionary reading for All Saints Day is from Revelation.
It is believed this letter was written at a time in the first century when the Christian community was suffering persecution. That assumption has been called into question by recent scholarship, as has also been the idea that the author of the letter, John the Evangelist, was in exile on the island of Patmos.
Despite the scrutiny, this passage is most often heard at funerals because of the hopeful language of its final two verses.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'
In this age of pandemic, when, because of public health restrictions, many are dying alone; when larger, more public funerals are deemed inadvisable; these words of hope are comfort and consolation to the families and friends who have lost loved ones and yearn for a more opportune time to celebrate the life of those who have been gathered into the company of saints.
As has become customary in this column, here are the names of the rostered ministers who have served the church faithfully and have entered the Church Triumphant in the past year. I am sure they will be remembered at the churches where they either attended or served. We of the Northeastern Ohio Synod staff will recognize them in our Monday devotions as we gather electronically on November 2. Whether or not they served your congregation, I would invite you to add them to your list of saints as you commemorate All Saints Day.
|The Rev. Larry Houff||November 23, 2019|
|+||The Rev. Luther Lautenschlager||March 12, 2020|
|+||The Rev. John Vannorsdall||April 5, 2020|
|+||The Rev. John Furno||April 20, 2020|
|+||The Rev. Erwin Smuda||May 24, 2020|
|+||The Rev. Donald Hesterman||August 10, 2020|
|+||The Rev. John Evans ||October 4, 2020|
|+|| The Rev. Walter Jordan||October 11, 2020|
Though he was not on the Northeastern Ohio Roster of Ministers of Word and Sacrament, the Rev. John Vannorsdall was a native of Ohio and a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Valley City. He was one of the earliest COVID-19 victims in the area.
During his years in active ministry, Pastor Vannorsdall served as parish pastor, campus pastor/chaplain at Cornell, Gettysburg, and Yale Universities; and to close out his ministry he served as President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United Lutheran Seminary).
Here is my meeting schedule for this week:
Monday: Staff Meeting
Wednesday: Congregational Resource Team
Saturday: Ordination of Debbie Pinnegar at Lutheran Memorial Camp
The next Northeastern Ohio Synod Rostered Ministers Monthly Gathering will be Wednesday, November 4, 2020, beginning at 10 a.m. Please email the synod office (email@example.com) or contact your conference Dean for the link.
A little over four years ago, I was sitting with a group of bishops in a public relations seminar in Washington, D.C., in preparation for one of our ELCA Advocacy Convenings. The following day we would be meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill to seek their support for immigration reform and other human rights issues. In that seminar, the speaker emphasized the importance of regular communication with the people of our synod. It was essential to keep our people informed.
That seminar inspired me to begin this weekly effort as a way of staying in touch with you, the people of God in this corner of God's kingdom. And to use an old cliché, I have never looked back. In case you're wondering, here is a link to that very first Monday Musings of October 3, 2016.
Now, more than 200 Musings later (212, by my count), I bring this weekly offering to a close.
My heart is filled with gratitude. I am thankful for so many things that if I were to list them all, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." Okay, I borrowed that last phrase from the Gospel according to John (Jn. 21;25), but I truly am grateful beyond measure.
I confess that these years have not been all joy. There were times of overwhelming frustration, despair, and loneliness; but in the final analysis, the joys far outweigh the challenges I've experienced in this ministry, and I leave with pleasant memories and a feeling of delight.
One of my anchor verses is found in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
I feel blessed to have been called to this office; to have been given the care of the pastors, deacons, and congregations of the Northeastern Ohio Synod for the past six-plus years; to have served as your bishop; and to have been given the privilege of communicating to you through this medium and in this fashion. It is truly one of the greatest earthly honors that God could have conferred on me.
My writing will resurface somewhere in some form or fashion. But for now, I say farewell and God's blessings.
I close with a prayer for the Church. It can be found in our Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 73.
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
+Bishop Abraham Allende