February 24, 2020
Restore in us, O God,
the splendor of your love;
renew your image in our hearts,
and all our sins remove.
Bring us, O Christ, to share
the fullness of your joy;
baptize us in the risen life
that death cannot destroy.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #328 v. 1, 3]
The assigned lectionary readings for Wednesday, February 26, Ash Wednesday, are as follows:
And the assigned lectionary readings for Sunday, March 1, 2020, The First Sunday in Lent, are as follows:
NOTE: The following will also be pinned to the top of my Facebook page until I deactivate my account. I apologize for the repetition.
I am taking a Facebook Fast for Lent.
I wanted to post this in advance so that, in case anyone actually notices, you'll know why.
I've long considered this move but have never had the fortitude to actually follow through on my inclinations.
I have always found justification for using this platform because I am somewhat of a public individual, and this is one way of getting out news and messages regarding my vocation - where I've been or where I'm going; what I've done or failed to do. It also provides another outlet for any public pronouncement that comes out of my office.
But it's addictive. A few weeks ago, I began using this alarm device that pops up on the screen and warns you when you've spent one hour on Facebook. You can actually set it for however long you want, and I felt that if I limited myself to an hour each day, I would have my fill of social media and get on with my life without any major disruption.
Well, it didn't work. The hour would come and go, and I'd still find myself transfixed to the computer screen, or the phone, or tablet.
Often on Saturday morning, when I should have been catching up on my reading, I was captive to comments and posts from people to whom I would otherwise not have paid a moment's notice. The really important things would often take a back seat.
I've also noticed that when I post something I consider substantially important, not many take the time to read the post. However, I put up a photo and get hundreds of reactions. Animal photos are the most popular, or so it seems.
I have a couple friends who are not on any type of social media. I find myself envying them because their life seems so much more productive, uncluttered by the frivolity of Facebook or twitter, Instagram and the like.
So here's my plan. I will leave this post up for a week or so before I temporarily deactivate my account.
My Monday Musings will still appear on the Northeastern Ohio Synod Facebook page for those who actually read them; or, for those who don't already subscribe, you can receive them via email.
I will do some self-monitoring, and sometime after Easter, I will revisit the whole experiment and decide whether to return or not.
In the meantime, I am still accessible via email. The phone still works, too. I'm not much of a texter. Besides, I don't share my cell phone number with everyone.
So that's my Lenten sacrifice. I ask your prayers that this proves a life-giving surrender that transforms my life for the better.
As part of my Lenten discipline over the past several years, I have used some sort of devotional in addition to the one I've read daily for ages. The interesting thing is that I've had several books sitting on my shelves, unread, for quite a while.
One such book is Praying the Catechism, by Donald W. Johnson, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It was developed in 1998, for adults preparing for Baptism in the ELCIC.

But the Catechism is one of those church resources that we should never stop reading. A couple years ago, when we commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, suggested that we reread the Catechism. I recently read another appeal by her to renew that practice.
There are other catechisms written for specific populations that I've found intriguing. There's an Asian exposition that was written for those who would wish to understand Lutheran theology as it applies to their culture. There is also one that includes reflections from a distinguished group of African descent Lutheran theologians. 
The point is that faith is rooted in whatever is our reality. It is useless to apply what was written in 16th Century Germany to the issues of another country today unless there is some contextual clarification. These two examples illustrate that.
I'm repeating this announcement from last week. 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 Calendar for 2020 (also 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 Pastor Eugene Koene and the people of God at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Warren.
This week and always, may you be reconciled to God and not accept the grace of God in vain. 
+Bishop Abraham Allende