July 1, 2019
The Lord now sends us forth
with hands to serve and give,
to make of all the earth
a better place to live.
The angels are not sent
into our world of pain
to do what we were meant
to do in Jesus' name;
that falls to you and me
and all who are made free.
Help us, O Lord, we pray,
to do your will today.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #538
The assigned lectionary readings for July 7, 2019, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
I was in Chicago on Friday and Saturday as part of the ELCA Memorials Committee. This group of fifteen dedicated individuals, along with some churchwide staff, reviewed the nearly 90 memorials, covering some three dozen different topics, that were adopted at all 65 synod assemblies across the church and are then sent on to the churchwide assembly for the consideration of the voting members. Our task was to review these documents, group them into categories, and suggest an action that will then be discussed at the assembly and either adopted or declined.
|| Memorials Committee members meet in Chicago
This was my first time serving on this committee and it was a fascinating process. The committee is made up of both lay persons and rostered ministers from diverse backgrounds and various areas of the country. Naturally, each brought in a unique perspective. Only two of us, by the way, were bishops.
| Memorials Committee - the other side of the room
The memorials covered a wide variety of topics; including, but not limited to, immigration, gun violence, care of creation, poverty, and church governance. It speaks to the care and concern that people have for the society and the world in which we live. The concerns of the church are the concerns of the people. Decisions on what we support or oppose are not made in a vacuum.
Each session began with worship and prayer. We prayed mostly for guidance, because ultimately, we would hope that in everything we do and the actions we recommend, we are fulfilling God's purpose. The mission of the church is, after all, God's mission.
It is God's mission that is at the heart of the assigned lectionary readings for this upcoming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus sends out 70 unnamed followers in teams of two's to witness to everything they had seen and heard about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And he warns them: "I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves."
This phrase has become a popular metaphor in our American culture to indicate that one doesn't stand a chance. It's obviously not a very encouraging statement.
But at the end of the reading we learn the most amazing result - Jesus' method works! The 70 return successful. They are excited that even the demons submitted to them.
This is a story about mission and our role in mission. We are now those whom Jesus sends ahead of him. We are now those who are being sent "like lambs into the midst of wolves."
What is God's purpose for us, God's people? That is the core question of the mission and ministry of the church.
God chooses to use us - flawed and fallible human beings - as witnesses to God's reign.
When Jesus sends us out he intends to use us for something big. We are now the ones through whom Christ's message of faith, hope and love is heard.
In our routine, ordinary, humdrum, everyday lives, Jesus is working out some larger matters. We look at the church, our church, we see mundane meetings, ordinary folk, unspectacular routine, people with all kinds of troubles. Yet Jesus sees heaven and earth being transformed through us.
God doesn't always work the way we believe God should. However, God always works for the good of the world, even if we can't see it quite clearly.
And it's always important to remember that it's not about us. It is always about God and what God is up to. It is testimony to both God's power and God's vulnerability and risk. To borrow a phrase the apostle Paul, may we never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lutheran Center offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for the July 4 holiday. We will reopen on Monday, July 8. Please enjoy the holiday safely.
This coming Sunday, July 7, I will be with the people of God at St. Jacob's Lutheran Church in North Canton. Although it's one of the closest congregations to my home, it's my first time as bishop that I lead them in worship. I am excitedly looking forward to it.
This week and always, may you sing the glory of God's name; sing the glory of God's praise, and say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!" [Psalm 66:1-2a]
+Bishop Abraham Allende