December 10, 2018
Hark, the glad sound! The Savior comes,
the Savior promised long;
let ev'ry heart prepare a throne
and ev'ry voice a song.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #239]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, December 16, 2018, the Third Sunday of Advent, are as follows:
The Third Sunday of Advent is also known as  Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for, "Rejoice."
When I began these musings a couple years ago, it was my intention to use the upcoming Sunday readings as a springboard to reflect on whatever was going on in my mind regarding the church, the world, and  how the Word of God can guide us as we live among each other in this corner of God's Kingdom that we call the Northeastern Ohio Synod. In short, to tie the readings more directly to the situation at hand.
Each week brings its own challenges because our current political, social, and economic realities are in flux and it appears they'll remain that way for the foreseeable future. Though I speak as an individual, I am very much aware that I speak for the church. Therefore, I try as best as I can, to ground my thoughts in scripture and not let my personal feelings cloud my interpretation of God's word.
These random thoughts of mine are not to be seen as pastoral letters. I make that distinction because a pastoral letter lifts a topic out of the realm of contemporary discussion or dialogue. It involves a lot more researching from a variety of perspectives; biblical, theological, social and anthropological. It becomes a definitive ecclesiastical pronouncement and considers the situation settled. Though I give this weekly reflection a great deal of thought, it pales by comparison to the time and effort a pastoral letter requires or to the weight a pastoral letter carries.
These weekly reflections are just that - reflections. Sometimes they miss the mark. They may come off as sounding inconsiderate or insincere. I apologize if that's how they are received. I tend to approach situations in a hopeful, optimistic and positive manner. I realize that not all of us see things that way. As a reader, you have every right to disregard or dismiss what I write. And the beauty of that is that God still loves both of us, regardless of our differences of opinion.
I think about the Apostle Paul and the joy expressed in his letters despite the adversity he encountered in his life. Our reading from Philippians for this coming Sunday begins with the enthusiastic words, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice."
That same thought is echoed in many of his epistles to the churches he founded. It would be easy to reject Paul's words as simply seeing the world with rose-colored glasses or staring too hard at the rose-colored candle on many of our Advent wreaths. After all, Paul was in prison. How could he rejoice in that?
But he had a choice to make. He could have chosen to be bitter, focusing on the negative, all that was wrong with his life, all he had lost, but instead he chose to focus on the positive, on all that was right, on all he still had. He had every reason to complain and plead with God about his dire circumstances, but instead he wrote: " Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
I imagine his letter to the Philippians is written as much to himself as it was to them.
As a reader, you might ask: How can I rejoice, when I just got laid off work? How can I rejoice when I'm awaiting the results of that biopsy? How can I rejoice when one of my family members just died? How can we rejoice when our President seems to create turmoil at every turn?
Paul's letter to the Philippians reminds us that when we rejoice always, our moments of deepest anguish are also moments of rejoicing. Rejoicing is the most visible sign of the presence of God in our lives. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding - because, believe me, no one will understand - the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m., I will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the people of God at Iglesia Luterana La Trinidad in Canton. I look forward to this evening each year because it reconnects me with the congregation that was my first call to ministry and the congregation I served for nine years. It is the first congregation in Northeastern Ohio to worship in Spanish. La Trinidad is housed at Zion Lutheran Church on Raff Road in Canton. The service begins at 6:00 p.m.
This coming Third Sunday of Advent, December 16, at 2:00 p.m., I will be with the people of God at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Mansfield, Ohio, to celebrate their final worship service as a congregation. St. Peter's was founded in 1952 by German immigrants and worshipped exclusively in German until a couple years ago. However, the congregation's attendance has declined to the point that they have made the faithful decision to bring that ministry to a close. I will be joined in the Service of Leave Taking by Pastor Ron Daley, who has been serving the congregation as ongoing supply pastor; and Pastor Karin Himstedt, a native of Germany, who will lead portions of the liturgy in German.
This week and always, may your hearts be filled with the joy of God's love and your soul filled with singing.
+Bishop Abraham Allende