June 8, 2020
There's a wideness in God's mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in God's justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heav'n.
There is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgment giv'n.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #587, verses 1, 3]
The readings for Sunday, June 14, 2020, the Second Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
As I prepare my musings each week, I search for a hymn whose words best align with the readings and my thoughts. Normally, the first verse sets that tone. But as I looked at the hymn above, "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy," I couldn't let go of the third verse and how it speaks to the troubling issues with which our society is wrestling today.
The love of God IS broader that the measures of our mind. It is when we set limits to our love that humankind's problems begin.
God does not take delight when people are oppressed. That is why God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Freedom from oppression is one of the dominant themes of scripture, and that desire to live in freedom is what gives our life purpose.
In our Old Testament reading from Exodus for this coming Second Sunday after Pentecost, God asks the people of Israel to obey God and keep God's covenant. They answer in the affirmative: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do." [Ex. 2:8a] We know, of course, that didn't last long.
The pattern of disobedience and exile is one that we have seen repeated over and over in human history. Yet God still refuses to give up on us.
We have witnessed multiple protests and demonstrations across our nation and the world in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis on May 30. The question remains however, how will this lead to healing our racial divisions and our thirst for justice, especially for those who have systematically not received equal treatment under the law?
More importantly, what will be our role, both as individuals and as a corporate faith community in being agents of healing?
How will we give witness that "the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong; that we are God's people and the sheep of God's pasture?" [Psalm 100:3]
As Christians, we and the church are called to be involved in Christ's mission of renewing the world, of bringing hatred and injustice to an end, and of establishing God's reign of love and peace. As we read in the Gospel according to Matthew, we are now the laborers which Christ sends into the harvest. God is still calling us to proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near."
Several pastors and congregational leaders have reached out to me in the past week asking for guidance on where to begin the conversation on white privilege and racial justice in their congregations.
I've referred them to documents that the ELCA has already adopted and published. Many of them can be found on the ELCA website on the page dedicated to
Racial Justice Ministries
. When you go to that site, click also on the link that will send you to a page with numerous
Racial Justice Resources
The ELCA has been pretty forthright about racism and white privilege for a number of years now. Unfortunately, this is a conversation too many congregations are reluctant to have for fear of making people uncomfortable. Some leaders fear that they will be seen as "too political." This is one of those issues that a congregation must struggle with and determine for itself.
But please take into consideration that silence in the face of injustice is the least desirable option. People are dying. This is not a recent phenomenon. But as individuals and as a church, we have a choice, and a voice.
Our Northeastern Ohio Synod Cross Cultural Conversations Table has been active for about five years now and this group is willing to engage you in that effort. Pastor Dirk van der Duim of Grace Lutheran Church in Hubbard, Ohio, is chair. I have asked them to take the lead in guiding those willing congregations in offering you the guidance you seek.
I remind you also that an online ELCA prayer service, including leaders from across the church and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton as preacher, is being planned for June 17, 2020, in commemoration of the
martyrdom of the Emanuel 9
. June 17th will mark five years since nine people were killed while in Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, Dylan Roof, was baptized and confirmed an ELCA Lutheran. Our relationship to the shooter as well as two of the slain, who were graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, reminds us of both our complicity and our calling.
Realizing that there are many questions on our minds regarding the reopening of our congregations in the Northeastern Ohio Synod, I am hosting a Zoom gathering for congregational leaders on
Wednesday, June 10, at 7:00 p.m.
This meeting is for lay leaders and council presidents, especially those congregations that are not currently being served by a full-time called pastor. We will review some of the protocols, share what some congregations are already doing, and allow for questions. Email Sony Gilroy at
to receive an invitation to the Zoom meeting. If you are not able to join by video, a phone connection is also available and will be included in the invitation. We look forward to being with you on Wednesday, June 10, at 7:00 p.m.
Last Friday, the Most Reverend George V. Murry, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, died following a two-year battle with leukemia. I consider Bishop Murry a trusted colleague and a friend. His death is mourned by the many faithful of the Diocese, as well as others whose lives he touched.
My relationship with Bishop Murry goes back to my days as a parish pastor in Canton, where I was privileged to serve as the Lutheran observer on the Catholic Commission of Stark County, and as a member of the board of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton. Bishop Murry was a frequent presence at the meetings, which gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from him, as well as share in the mission and life-giving work of the commission's various charitable agencies and diverse parish ministries of the Diocese.
As bishops, in recent years he and I were co-collaborators in advancing the ecumenical efforts of the Lutheran-Catholic Covenant, an agreement into which our two church bodies entered at the beginning of this century. Every two years we would celebrate the mutual commitment to someday fulfilling Christ's desire that we may all be one. Our last commemoration together was on October 29, 2017, the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
I will personally miss his collegiality, his companionship, and the joy of merely being in his presence.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting.
Conference meeting with Richland-Ashland, Southern
Meeting with Congregation Lay Leaders.
Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
For our closing prayer this week, we remember Father's Day. It is not a religious holiday, but it cannot be ignored, nevertheless. I came across a rather lengthy prayer called a
Litany of Peace for Father's Day
, by the Rev. Jane Sommers, a United Methodist pastor. I only use a portion of it here. You can read the entire prayer by following the link.
Loving God, we lift this day our gratitude for the loving men
who have brought us the precious heart of your Father Love.
We give thanks to you this day
For those who have shown us kindness,
For those who have shown us courage,
For those who have shown us generosity,
For those who have shown us truth,
For those who have shown us compassion,
For those who have shown us faith,
For those who have shown us love.
Blessed be the name of all sons and brothers and fathers
who reveal a glimpse of your loving presence on earth.
+Bishop Abraham Allende