February 17, 2020

Arise, your light has come!

      The Spirit's call obey;

      show forth the glory of your God

      which shines on you today.

                                         [Evangelical Lutheran Worship #314]


The assigned lectionary readings for Sunday, February 23, 2020, The Sunday of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, are as follows:



In my last year of my last parish call, before my life was unexpectedly transfigured into the call to the office of bishop, I had begun increasing the time of silence in our worship.


As I would end the time of announcements, just before our prelude, I would ask the assembled to calm their hearts and minds and become aware of the reality of God's presence around them.


Though I repeated those words each week, it was not idle chatter on my part. I really wanted people to use that time to become aware of God's presence.


Granted, it was not total silence because we had the organ playing; but the intention wasn't to give myself time to walk to the baptismal font, or to give the people time to fiddle with the bulletin or find the first hymn in the hymnal or talk. It was to LISTEN.


The Transfiguration by A.D. Thomas (India)

I asked the lectors to count silently to 20 in between the readings. Eventually I increased it to 30. We had also begun to build silent times in our Parish council meetings. We paused at certain points in our meeting and either sat in silence or prayed. Again, becoming aware of the reality of God's presence around us.


The motivation for my seemingly crazy idea had to do with the voice we hear in the Gospel reading for this Sunday of the Transfiguration. A voice from a cloud said to Peter, James and John, " This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him !"


I said "seemingly crazy idea" because a few people let me know how uncomfortable it made them. Truth be told, I sympathized with them. It has taken me years to develop the practice of silence. It requires effort to sit in silence.


I've written before about my trips to silent retreats at Trappist monasteries in New York and Kentucky. When I took my first trip in 2011, my wife bet I wouldn't be able to do it because I was too much of a chatterbox to sit quietly for three minutes, let alone three days. I admit, I was thankful for the "chat room" where we were allowed to talk for up to two hours daily; especially after running into a priest friend of mine whom I didn't expect to see there.


A couple years ago, I visited a congregation where the pastor had intentionally built two minutes of silence between the end of the sermon and the hymn of the day. By the one-minute mark I was fidgeting like crazy. I was there again a few weeks ago and was much more prepared for it and considerably calmer.


As a culture and even as the church, we tend to get trapped in the glitz and glitter of the times. Our lives are caught up in the constant babble of the noise from our televisions and radios. I am amazed as I travel through airports at the number of people glued to a mobile phone or other listening device. Headsets and earbuds have become a fixture of the human anatomy.


This coming Sunday of transfiguration always strikes us as being all about what can be SEEN, when God's voice thunders from heaven. But what God says is that the disciples must LISTEN to Jesus!  If they listen to what Jesus says, they will discover windows on glory they had never before suspected were there. 


" This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him !"

We tend to suppress, if not outright disbelieve, the notion that God speaks to us. As we prepare for Lent, and the journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem, it is in the silence and the listening that we open ourselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is a power that is beyond our everyday sight, a power that gives us the courage to live a life like that of Christ Jesus our Lord.




On  Ash Wednesday February 26  , we will once again celebrate an Ash Wednesday Eucharist with the imposition of ashes, at the Lutheran Center (Synod Offices), 1890 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, beginning at noon. If you are in the area, or are looking for a place to worship, we invite you to join us. 


Also again this year, we have published our annual Lenten Prayer List for 2020 (available on Wednesday E-News), listing all rostered ministers and congregations. As is customary, I encourage you to make prayer for pastors, deacons and congregations in our synod a part of your Lenten discipline.


Throughout the season of Lent at the Lutheran Center, we gather daily promptly at noon in the chapel for a brief period of prayer. The time will include readings from Scripture, a brief reflection, a hymn, as well as petitions for specific persons and congregations taken from the prayer calendar. You are also invited to join us for that interlude, which takes no more than 15 minutes.




This coming Sunday morning, I will be with the people of God at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent as they say farewell to their Pastor, the Rev. Doug Fidler, who is retiring. We give thanks to God for Pastor Fidler's many years of faithful service, and ask your prayers for the people of God at Trinity, Kent, as they enter the call process.




Sunday evening, I will be leading the Vespers service at Copeland Oaks Retirement Community in Sebring. This is my third visit there and it is always an enjoyable experience.    




This week and always, may you be as attentive to the Lord as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. [2 Peter 1:19]



+Bishop Abraham Allende