March 2, 2020
Lord, take my hand and lead me
upon life's way;
direct, protect, and feed me
from day to day.
Without your grace and favor
I go astray;
so take my hand, O Savior,
and lead the way.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #767]
The assigned lectionary readings for Sunday, March 8, 2020, The Second Sunday in Lent, are as follows:
Perceptive observers of the Lectionary readings will note that the Gospel lesson each First Sunday in Lent recounts the Devil's temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
What may not be so noticeable, mainly because preachers seldom preach about it, is that each year in our lectionary, the assigned Old Testament readings for the Second Sunday in Lent are taken from Genesis and are associated with God's call to Abraham (or Abram, as he is first known). God makes promises to Abraham that on the surface sound outrageous.
As you may imagine, I relate to this story; not just because of the similarity of my name, but more so because the story of the call to Abraham offers you and me a lens through which we can understand our relationship with the living God.
Six years ago, my plans for the future were pretty clear. My wife, Linda, and I had begun dreaming of leisurely living and long vacations. The only major decision was at what point I would put closure to full-time ministry.
And God laughed.
I received a phone call in early March telling me that my name was among the top ten candidates for the office of bishop, and asking if I would allow my name to go forward to the assembly. Needless to say, I was surprised. But after consulting with a couple colleagues whose opinions I value, I allowed my name to go forward in the process, although I did it with much fear and trembling.
Those friends repeatedly advised me to trust the process and trust the Spirit. Like my Biblical namesake, I obeyed, never in a million years thinking where that obedience would lead.
The thrust of the story of Abraham is that Abraham believed and obeyed what God told him. And I would like to think that I, too, have obeyed. Throughout these past five-and-a-half years I've prayed daily that God continue to equip me with what is needed to faithfully fulfill the ministry to which I was called.
In much the same way we are all called. We are called in the waters of baptism to be a child of God, to become a member of a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
Having been called, we do as Abraham did. We obey. We do God's will in our lives. We follow God's commands to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul. And we follow God's command, also, to love those around us in our lives.
Will we always obey God? That's not humanly possible. We are all sinful. Even Abraham sinned.
But, in those moments when we sin, we can be assured that we are living under the care and watchful eye of the Holy Spirit, and we are able to ask and receive forgiveness. Then, by God's grace, we follow-through and go out and do what God has called us to do. Not always, and never on our own, are we able to do God's will in our lives.
That is what faith is: to believe that God can do what God has promised. It is to trust the promises of God so implicitly that you act on them. The season of Lent is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on our faith and in whom we place our trust.
God's call comes in many and various ways. Sometime this coming April, ten ministers of Word and Sacrament will receive a similar call to the one I received six years ago.
For them, as for all of us, if we follow Jesus - truly follow Jesus - on the journey to the cross, there is no thought of our abdicating responsibility nor of our being asked to do what we do not want to do. As Christians, each day we have to decide if we will continue to put our trust in God no matter where that might lead. It is not a matter of following when it suits us and then leaving when the going gets tough.
As the Rev. Eric Barreto puts it in one of his commentaries, "Faith rides on the waves of life, rising and falling."
And as God knew how to use Abram as an agent for the plan of salvation, we trust that God knows what God is doing in, with, and through our lives.
Although it is not a church commemoration, March 8 is International Women's Day, a global
day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of
This year it falls on a Sunday. And also this year, the ELCA is celebrating the 50th year of the ordination of women. So if you are looking to commemorate it in a big way, there is an opportunity for you to contribute to, and invest in the future of women leaders, our companion churches, educational institutions and communities. By doing so, you can help the ELCA expand opportunities for women around the globe as we strive for a church - and society - built on true gender equity. You can click
for more information on how to give.
The ELCA is also encouraging congregations to hold commemorative events in honor of this historic remembrance. You can find helpful resources on the
I seldom comment on past congregational visitations, but I had to share this wonderful surprise that the people of God at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Warren, prepared for me this past Sunday. The cake on the right was the brainchild of Mr. Terry Wentworth, who combined the occasion of my impending retirement with acknowledgement of my Puerto Rican roots. I am most humbled and grateful for the congregation's thoughtfulness.
This coming week I will be in Chicago beginning on Thursday for the Spring Conference of Bishops. This, like many other upcoming events, will be my final time with my bishop colleagues. I will miss the fellowship.
This week and always, may the LORD watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth forevermore. [Psalm 121:8]
+Bishop Abraham Allende