September 3, 2019
"Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
   [Evangelical Lutheran Worship #798]
The assigned lectionary readings for September 8, 2019, the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
I pray that you have all enjoyed a restful and relaxing Labor Day weekend, and are now ready to begin what, for many people, is the beginning of the church's program year. Most congregations will begin their Sunday Schools this upcoming Sunday. Some will observe this with a Rally Day, but in recent years, this second Sunday in September has come to be known as "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday.
GWOH began in 2013, as a way of celebrating the 25 th anniversary of the Evangelica Lutheran Church in America. As we now observe it for the seventh year, congregations will witness in their communities, serving meals, cleaning up neighborhoods, visiting with the home-bound, collecting supplies for those experiencing homelessness, poverty or conflict.
In this age of social media, many of you will be posting photos of your activities on Facebook or other platforms. I encourage you to tag us in your post, or post on our Northeastern Ohio Synod, ELCA page, so we can share in your act of service.
Another items of note. The ELCA held a hymn contest to select an anthem for GWOH. Wayne Wold,  a music professor in Frederick, Md., composed the winning entry, which you can listen to by clicking HERE.
This week's readings can be linked together by the theme of making choices.
I have a book on my shelf titled, I Wish Jesus Hadn't Said That, which explores some of the hard sayings of Jesus. Though not included in this book, the reading from this Sunday's Gospel could certainly qualify. Jesus calls for his followers to give up everything if they wish to become his disciple.
The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, "When Jesus calls a person to come and follow, he calls him to come and die." This sounds like scary hyperbole, and in one sense it is. I would not recommend posting those words on your church's outdoor sign. But for Bonhoeffer himself, these words were not hyperbole. He took the words literally, by making the choice to follow Jesus and committing himself to the resistance against the totalitarian, anti-Christian regime of Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, this led to his participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed, and Bonhoeffer was ultimately executed for his role in it.
But how far do we take the idea of following Jesus?
Many churches have in recent years and decades done all in their power to make it convenient to be a member of the church. If someone says: "I want to be a Christian," or "I want to follow Jesus" or "I want to be a member of your church," what should we tell them? What does this text say to them?
One has to admit that, at least here in America, following Jesus comes with very little by way of cost or hardship.  Most of us don't have to make hard choices like turning away from friends and family. We would more readily do that for many reasons other than faith-related ones.
Yes, the words of Jesus in this Sunday's Gospel reading are challenging. We do wish sometimes that Jesus hadn't said them. Yet at the Communion table we are reminded weekly of how far Jesus was willing to go to fix our broken relationship with God. And because of that, we are given the grace to make the choice.

This Friday, September 6, I will be in Columbus, Ohio, as the Ohio Council of Churches celebrates its 100 th anniversary. The celebration is cosponsored by the
Leonard Pitts
Methodist Theological School of Ohio (MTSO) and the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Gathered around the theme, "Christians and the Disinherited: Toward the Next 100 Years of Ecumenical Ministry," the conference brings together religious leaders and lay people from a host of denominations throughout Ohio. We will engage in conversations around the social issues that are most pressing for Christians to confront over the next 100 years.
I am honored to be part of a panel that will open the conference. The panel is titled, "Ecumenism and the Disinherited: Reconsidering Mission."
Keynote speaker for the event is nationally syndicated columnist, bestselling author and lecturer Leonard Pitts Jr., who will speak on the topic "Being White in a Woke World: Things People of Color Wish Other Americans Knew." He will speak during the evening session.
"Christians and the Disinherited" will be held on the MTSO campus in Delaware, located on U.S. Route 23, 10 miles north of I-270.
Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m., I will be with the people of God at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Poland, Ohio, to install their new pastor, the Rev. Dawn Richie.
Edward Hahnenberg
Sunday, September 8, the Northeastern Ohio Synod and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown hold the Lutheran-Catholic Covenant celebration at St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church's Family Life Center in Canfield, Ohio.
"Our Common Witness to the Gospel" is the theme of the gathering, which begins at 2:30 p.m., and ends at 6:30 p.m., followed by an optional supper.
Primary presenter is Edward P. Hahnenberg, Professor in Catholic Theology at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also a delegate to the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue.
This day of prayer and study commemorates the signing of the Lutheran-Catholic Covenant in October 2000 by Bishop Thomas Tobin and Bishop Marcus Miller. This is also the 20 th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, a document created and agreed to by the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999 as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue.
This week and always, may the Spirit of God inspire you to love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and observe his commandments.
+Bishop Abraham Allende