February 3, 2020
Lift ev'ry voice and sing till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise high as the list'ning skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #841]
The assigned lectionary readings for Sunday, February 9, 2020, The Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, are as follows:
Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
Last summer, on our annual train trip, my son, David, and I, spent almost an entire day at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The visit and the impact it had on me will not soon be forgotten. The sheer number of exhibits and the emotions they provoked were like sensory overload. For anyone who has lived any of that experience, the pain of recall is almost too much to bear.
February is designated as African-American History month in the United States. The celebration was conceived and first observed as "Negro History Week" in 1925, the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford became the first president to give it recognition as a month-long observance and called upon Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
While African-American History Month (also known as Black History Month) is a secular observance, it also calls for all people of faith to seek racial justice and reconciliation, and to recognize and honor the value and dignity of every human being as a child of God.
This was one of the major themes that guided the 2019 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA last August in Milwaukee.
Among its many actions, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) issued an apology to people of African descent for the church's historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism in the United States and globally. You can read that declaration in its entirety, along with an explanation of why it was issued, by clicking HERE .
For Lutherans, this is one way we live into what the prophet Isaiah commands in the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday: "to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke." [Isaiah 58:6]
Our readings for this Fifth Sunday after Epiphany are deeply rooted in the language of relationship.
"You are the light of the world," Jesus says. "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven."
You may recognize that, in our baptism ceremony, when a child or adult is handed a candle, these words of Jesus are pronounced. So being light for the world is a part of our baptismal covenant.
Jesus needs us to be light for the world. Christian living is like a light that illumines a world gone dark from the gloom of sin. Love for one another should not be contained to ourselves. It should seek to be poured out for others. Authentic love translates into good deeds and into glory for God.
The world needs us - ALL of us. Whether black or white, it needs the hope we offer, the food we share, the relationship with God that we have entered into. The world needs to hear the message of salvation that God brings through us, to hear the word we have about our unity in the family of God, and about how God loves us and wants to help us be whole.
The world needs to see that we are all related and that our relationship is one of peace, of God's righteousness and God's love.
This will be the last Monday I will post this reminder, I promise.
I am grateful to those of you who have submitted your rostered leader reports. I want to encourage those of you who have yet to submit yours, to do so before you get caught up in your Lenten planning and preparations. I do read these reports and respond as appropriate. It is also a way for us, as rostered leaders, to maintain some sense of accountability. The link and instructions will be available on our Wednesday e-news, or you can access the form by clicking HERE.
Also, Congregational reports are also due. I would ask your help in improving our response rate. Last year, 71% of our congregations submitted reports. That is a slight improvement over the previous year, but still significantly below the churchwide average, which is 78.1%.
These reports are important for a couple of reasons:
a)      The voting member allocation for the 2022 Churchwide Assembly will be based on the reports received this coming year, so those filed in the coming year will have a direct effect on our voting member allocation.

b)      The congregational report is like a diagnostic tool, like blood pressure or temperature taken in a doctor's office. The report is not the full picture, not a good indicator of a congregation's activities or the quality of its ministry, but it can help us to ask more questions. Annual reports such as these are used by Planning, Research, and Evaluation staff to help the churchwide organization see where the church is today and what trends are developing.
These forms can be filed online at, or by clicking HERE.
This coming Sunday morning, I will be with the people of God at Parma Lutheran Church in Parma. Though I have preached and presided at Parma, most recently for an ordination, this is my first visit to a Sunday morning worship service. I look forward to our time together in praise and worship.
This week and always, may you be salt for the earth and light for the world.
+Bishop Abraham Allende