May 4, 2020
Come, my way, my truth, my life:
such a way as gives us breath;
such a truth as ends all strife;
such a life as killeth death.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #816]
The readings for May 10, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, are as follows:
Like the 23rd Psalm which we heard on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Gospel reading for this Fifth Sunday of the Easter season is also heard most often at funerals. The two readings go well together for the comfort, hope, and encouragement their words offer.
Death has been and continues to be a foreboding presence in our country and in our world over the course of these past few months. And yet, Jesus begins this portion of his farewell discourse with the words, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me."
For those who are anxious about the present state of affairs in this COVID-19 world, Jesus invites us to trust in him despite the doubts, fears, and distress we may be experiencing. The words are like a virtual hug in these days of physical distancing.
Jesus talks about going and returning to take us with him, "so that where I am, there you may be also."
As I read this passage and reflected on these weeks of isolation, deprived of in-person public worship, I likened it to Jesus going away.
Like the disciples, we can't escape a feeling of abandonment. We ask the very human question, "What is to become of us?" Jesus promises God's presence, and points us to the goal to which all of us are called.
We long for his return to save us from these troubling times in which we live. Jesus promises, "I will come again."
And as Governor Mike DeWine announced last week, plans to reopen the state of Ohio have begun. That means that soon we can return to our church buildings, albeit slowly. Last week I issued a
calling us to imagine what this will look like in our congregations. This will be our synod's primary focus in the month of May.
I've given this a great deal of attention over the past several days; and I've jotted down a few priorities as guiding principles for this process. These are very preliminary and somewhat sketchy, but I wanted to share them with you to give you a glimpse into my thought process:
- Equip congregations with the ability to see the presence of God among them in order to become alive in Christ. The church is called to focus on its life as a powerful manifestation of the life of Jesus.
- Develop reopening guidelines for our synod. What questions should we consider as we plan to reopen. There are a lot of recommendations already out there, but how do we adapt those specifically to our context?
- Continue an online presence for all congregations, or at least as many as are capable of doing so.
- Provide resources and guidance for those who can't.
- Identify those who will help develop and implement these efforts.
As we return to worship, we are also aware that we do not return to things as they were. As Thomas Wolfe once wrote, "You Can't go home again."
We have all seen and shown the many and various ways that pastors and the people of God throughout the synod have summoned every ounce of creativity imaginable to share the good news, to reach out to each other, and to be the presence of God for each other. The focus has not been so much on the building or the budget but on engaging its people both within and without the congregation.
This is a kairos moment in the life of the church. The pandemic has forced us to reshape our priorities, to take seriously the witness of our lives, and the life-giving work of the church, in order to become what the church is called to be - an instrument of God's mission.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me."
In addition to being the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10 is also Mother's Day. The majority of us have learned most of what we know from our mothers. Mothers are the ones who nurture. Even though Mother's Day is not a religious festival, Jesus, during his earthly ministry, filled a motherly role with his disciples. He called them to follow him, he taught them, he encouraged them, and even though he sometimes had to scold them, he modeled for them what it was like to be a child of God.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting.
Latino Leadership Strategy.
: Conference Deans.
Minneapolis Area Synod Presentation - Dr. Michael Osterholm,
Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and
at the University of Minnesota.
Akron-Wooster, Eastern Conference Rostered Ministers.
ELCA Conference of Bishops.
Region Six Bishops.
Our closing prayer is a prayer of Julian of Norwich, whom the Church commemorates on May 8.
In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen
+Bishop Abraham Allende