July 29, 2019
We give thee but thine own,
whate'er the gift may be;
all that we have is thine alone,
a trust, O Lord, from thee.
May we thy bounties thus
as stewards true receive,
and gladly, as thou blessest us,
to thee our first fruits give.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #868]
The assigned lectionary readings for August 4, 2019, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
This week, my wife, Linda, and I, leave for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I will attend the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) Assembly, and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly which follows. Though I will not be in the office, I will be working, albeit in a different setting. Linda will be a guest.
The ADLA Assembly is held every two years, while the Churchwide Assembly is held every three years. Since these years happened to coincide, it was decided to hold them both in the same city and subsequent to each other to save travel costs for those who will attend both.
I will be accompanied to the Churchwide Assembly by our Synod Vice-President, Bryan Penvose, and twelve other voting members who were elected at the Northeastern Ohio Synod Assembly in 2018. They are:

The Rev. Cynthia Striker
The Rev. Angela Jackson
Kimberly Carr
Leah Kulma
Albert Barnes
Alexander Babinski
Deacon Lindsay Bailey
Paul Gochnour
Caroline Cole
The Rev. Angela Freeman-Riley
Timothy Wood
The Rev. Gwendolyn Snell
 The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton
Gathered under the theme of "We Are Church," the Assembly is our church's highest legislative body. All decisions made there become the policies and procedures of the ELCA. You can compare it to our annual synod assembly, but it's nearly three times larger and the issues discussed are far more wide-ranging. Many of the proposed actions that are deliberated at the churchwide level have been submitted by the synod assemblies
Among the major responsibilities of this year's assembly will be the election of the Presiding Bishop and the ELCA Secretary. The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, our Presiding Bishop, has indicated her willingness to stand for reelection to another six-year term. The Rev. W. Chris Boerger, on the other hand, has decided to retire, so someone new will be elected to the office of Secretary.  
We here in Northeastern Ohio, of course, remember that six years ago in Pittsburgh, to the surprise of many, the Holy Spirit spoke, and Bishop Eaton was elected to the office of Presiding Bishop. This was a mere thirteen weeks after having been reelected synod bishop. The vacancy created by her election, led to another bishop election here in Northeastern Ohio the following year.
There will be other persons that have been nominated to positions on the Church Council and to churchwide boards and committees. Among the Northeastern Ohio nominees are David Lenz and Chuck Mosberger, who are candidates for Church Council; and the Rev. Tina Heise, who is a candidate for a position on the Committee on Discipline.
Let me highlight a few of the other matters being considered:
  • To adopt a proposed social statement, Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action
  • To adopt a proposed policy statement, "A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment"
  • To receive the report of the Task Force for a Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity within the ELCA
  • To consider 88 memorials submitted by the 65 synods of the ELCA
There will be many opportunities to ask questions about these various issues at evening hearings before any votes are taken. Voting members will also engage in Bible studies and meet their siblings in Christ from the other synods of the ELCA.
It is, to many first timers, an eye-opening insight into the wider church. I've asked the voting members to write a brief reflection on their experience once they return, which we will share on our website and e-news.
We will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women, which will actually be observed in 2020 for the entire year.
For me, the highlight of the assembly is the worship. (You most likely knew I would mention that!) There is an opening Eucharist on Monday at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday at 11 a.m., and a closing Eucharist on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. It is the worship that elevates this event high above the matter of a mere business session.
Much of the assembly will be live streamed so even though you aren't there, you can watch in the comfort of home. Check the ELCA website for more information.
This week's readings, primarily the Gospel, focus on priorities and who is truly the God of our lives.
Jesus refuses to be drawn into a family fight over an inheritance by telling a parable. He launches into a story about a rich farmer who wants to build bigger barns to store his abundance of crops, but whose life is going to end the very night he conceives his materialistic scheme.
To be clear, Jesus doesn't warn against money, wealth, or material abundance. He warns against greed, about the insatiable feeling of never having enough. His is an invitation to consider how we invest our lives and the gifts that God has given us, how our lives are fundamentally aligned.
If I were preaching anywhere this week, I would use the time to emphasize the economic disparity that exists in the world and in our nation today, and to consider what we as individuals and as communities of faith could do to relieve that.
As rich a nation as we are, there are still children who go to bed hungry each and every night. There are still people who lack adequate housing, affordable health care, or a job that pays a living wage. Yet to hear politicians tell it, we spend too much money on the poor. Year after year, our elected officials look for ways to cut what they call "entitlement programs," that are directed toward caring for the needy and the vulnerable. Those who propose anything that approaches aid to the needy are condemned as "socialists."
For Christians, feeding, housing, or caring for the most vulnerable among us is not and should not be a partisan issue - it's a moral call. We know there is enough for everyone.  Any proposal to cut programs that offer much-needed food and other supplements to the poor is distressing.
Jesus tells stories like these, or like the Good Samaritan a couple weeks ago, because they honor caring for the poor, loving our enemies, and doing good for those in need. Relationships are what matter most to God - relationship with God and with each other.
Christ invites us into a life greater than our anxious fears over things that have no ultimate worth. He invites us into a deeper relationship with God and with others - a treasure far greater and more enduring than any material possession or wealth has to offer.
There will not be a Monday Musings next week, as I will be taking some time off to concentrate on the responsibilities of the Churchwide Assembly. I could change my mind, but in any case, I will definitely be back in two weeks.
This week and always, may you set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. May your mouth speak of wisdom, and your heart meditate on understanding.
+Bishop Abraham Allende