November 12, 2018
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
[Hebrews 10:24-25]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, November 18, 2018, the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
We've come through another brutal election campaign and I, for one, couldn't be happier that it's over.
  Courtesy Sally Mavor. Click on photo for more information.
We heard countless political ads on either side attacking the opposing candidate; and if they were all to be believed, the voter's only choice was between the lesser of the two evils. Redeeming qualities and virtues were hardly mentioned.
Also worthy of note was that, unlike in previous years, after the results were final, in the majority of post-election speeches, neither candidate, whether in victory or defeat, had any conciliatory words for the opponent. There were few promises to work together to heal the divisions. The battle was over, but the discord would live on.
This political exercise we go through each election cycle - which seems to be continuous - only sets us up for disappointment. Candidates these days appeal only to our greed and our fears, promising to do more to improve our situation by creating more jobs, stimulating the economy and lowering taxes; at the same time excluding and disparaging those deemed undeserving - immigrants and people of color, expressing little or no regard for the least and most vulnerable among us. In no commercial did I hear the word poverty mentioned.  
There's a verse in Psalm 16, this coming Sunday's assigned Psalm reading that seems to address the foolishness of our earthly ambitions:
But those who run after other gods
shall have their troubles multiplied.
[Psalm 16:3]
If we put our trust in mortals, especially elected officials, we are always going to be disillusioned.
If we put our trust in Jesus, however, we have the faith to face the future with hope.
  People comfort each other near the scene of Wednesday's mass
  shooting in Thousand Oaks, California
  Courtesy NBC News
As we approach the end of our church year, the lectionary readings we hear refer to the end times. It's almost too easy to draw parallels between what we read in scripture and what's happening in our nation today. The mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California on Wednesday, November 7, immediately leaps to mind. These tragedies are occurring with frighteningly increasing frequency.
The gospel of Mark for this coming Sunday is enough to scare the living daylights out of us. We read about wars and rumors of wars; earthquakes in various places and famines; and the reading begins with a prediction of the destruction of the temple.
The Old Testament lesson from Daniel talks about anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.
Fear is a terrible thing. It causes some people to freeze up and to be unable to move, unable to complete their pilgrimage upon this earth as God would have them do it. It causes others to do things that we can only describe as being evil - lying and cheating so that they might "get ahead"; or of placing their trust in things which, in the end, really do let them down.
More than committing to a candidate, the readings teach us about commitment to relationship; about the ability to live together as people of faith, "provoking one another to love and good deeds, and encouraging one another." [Hebrews 10:25]
Yes, there is serious pain in the world, and in our society. There are wars and rumors of wars. There's strife within families, and even within the family of faith - those of us called to be one in Christ. And God's name is profaned, used as a political prop to assert power over the powerless.
Pain and anxiety are part of the life of people who want to grow in their service and in their relationship to Christ.But when we know Jesus, the Jesus of the gospels, we know that God is love, and love drives out fear.
Even though these passages don't provide simple answers for today, they invite us to enter the world of terror and fear, to live in the shadow of it, and in the light of the hope which is beyond it. The shape of hope will differ from situation to situation.
These "end times" readings are a sign that our lives can be formed by the kind of world we envision, while we face a world that is falling apart around us. Our hopes should shape our lives as powerfully as our faith and our love. If we hope for a future of justice and peace, we must read the signs of the times so this future may begin now.
The best response to insecurity is the confidence that comes from knowing that God considers you - no matter your race, creed, color, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation - worthy of dignity, honor, and love.
I came upon the following prayer in our Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal [p. 77] and found it useful during the days immediately following the election. I commend it to you in hopes that it may be a source of tranquility.
"Almighty God, we lift before you all who govern this (state/province/city/town_______). May those who hold power understand that it is a trust from you to be used, not for personal glory or profit, but for the service of the people. Drive from us cynicism, selfishness, and corruption; grant in your mercy just and honest government; and give us grace to live together in unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Friday I will travel to Columbus for the LSA-Ohio Annual Ministry Review. Representatives of the various Lutheran social service agencies across Ohio meet to review the results of all that's been done in this past year and to prioritize goals and objectives for the upcoming year. We are blessed by the work that these ministry partner organizations do for the people of God in our state, and we share in that work by providing for them out of our mission support dollars.
Saturday afternoon I will gather with the good people at Faith Lutheran Church in Fairlawn, to give thanks to God for the ministry of Pastor Jean Hansen and celebrate her 30th anniversary of ordination.
Sunday morning, I will share the gospel with the people of God at The Lutheran Church of the Master in Bedford.
Sunday afternoon, I will be at First Lutheran in Strongsville, to hear Dr. David Pilgrim, founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia located on the campus of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. Dr. Pilgrim is one of the country's leading experts on multiculturalism, diversity, and race relations. He will give a presentation on a most timely topic for our times, "The Power of Honest Conversation About Race."
This event begins at 3:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
This week and always, may you "hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful." [Hebrews 10:23]
+Bishop Abraham Allende