September 21, 2020
How small our span of life, O God,
our years from birth till death:
a single beat within the heart,
the catching of a breath,
a drop within the ocean's deep,
a grain upon the shore,
a flash of light before we sleep
to see the sun no more.
We thank you, God, for kindling faith
that lights our transient years,
illumining our pilgrimage
through mists of doubt and fears;
for hope that sees a life beyond
the swiftly passing days;
for love, both human and divine,
that lifts our hearts to praise.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #636, verse1, 4]
The readings for Sunday, September 27, 2020, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
I am away from the office this week taking some personal time. In normal days, it would be called vacation. But I'm not going anywhere except tending to matters that are not work related. We need those moments of self-care in order to restore ourselves physically and emotionally. It was a recurrent theme in the Gospels, something Jesus often did.
Though by now you've probably been bombarded with opinions, I still feel obligated to reflect on the death last Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Over the weekend there has been an outpouring of sympathy for the diminutive woman who served for 27 years on the nation's highest bench. She was known as an advocate for equal rights, which endeared her to many marginalized communities, who considered her their champion.
As a woman, Ginsburg knew what it was like to face sexism, or gender discrimination. That's why care and concern for those on the margins of society was, in many ways, the principle that seemed to guide the decisions of Justice Ginsburg. She defended those laws and regulations that gave access to voting rights for the previously disenfranchised, made health care affordable to those for whom it was prohibitive, and several others. Through her mostly dissenting opinions, she voiced her opposition to those who are attempting to dismantle those legislative victories. That is why there is a great deal of worry over who will succeed her on the court.
The vulnerable and the disenfranchised in society are always in need of special protection. The Old Testament repeatedly makes reference to God's command and concern to care for the "widow, the orphan, and the stranger." Renown Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann groups them into what he calls the "triad of vulnerability."
The ELCA Social Message on Human Rights states that: "When the laws of a society do not order society for the good of all or promote justice, the members of this church are compelled in their faith to address those shortcomings. Conversely, God's people participate in God's will for society when they seek just laws that safeguard human dignity and promote the common good." [p. 4]
It is, in many ways, an elaboration on our baptismal vow to "strive for justice and peace in all the earth."
So I complete my thought with these questions: How do your faith practices reflect that concern? Where in your life do you live out your activism?
Late Sunday I learned of the death of Pastor Robert Graetz. Like Ginsburg, Pastor Graetz was also a champion for justice. He was instrumental in the organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. He documents the experience in a book, A White Preacher's Memoir, which was published in 1998.
The news of his death, and a recap of his illustrious life were described in the Sunday edition of the Montgomery Advertiser. Pastor Graetz was 92 years old.
In my report at the synod assembly I mentioned that in this call God has blessed me with a multitude of friendships in the Conference of Bishops, not the least of which are my region six colleagues. Bishops, Dillahunt, Beaudoin, Gafkjen, Kreiss, and Satterlee have been a source of support and comfort over these last six years. I feel we are the envy of the Conference. People really wonder if we get along as well as we appear to. I will affirm that we do. There are a variety of reasons for that, mainly our deep and abiding faith, our commitment to the church and to this call which God has entrusted to our care.
Twice a year we gather as a Conference. But in addition, we get together for the annual First Call Theological Education Retreat, and the six of us also gather in retreat at least one other time, usually at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana. There are many telephone conversations. Most recently we have been checking in with each other on the Zoom platform. I will miss our conversations, our late-night social sessions, the comfort that we have been to one another. I will cherish my association with these colleagues, who I'm also privileged to call friends.
ELCA Region Six Bishops (L to R): Bishop William Gafkjen, Indiana-Kentucky; Bishop Daniel Beaudoin, Northwestern Ohio; Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt, Southern Ohio; Bishop Abraham Allende, Northeastern Ohio; Bishop Donald Kreiss, Southeast Michigan; Bishop Craig Satterlee, Northwest Lower Michigan.
This coming Saturday, September 26, I will have the honor of preaching at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination of the Annual Conference of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. Like our Synod Assembly, the Conference was postponed from June and will be a virtual Zoom gathering.
The next Northeastern Ohio Synod Rostered Ministers Monthly Gathering will be Wednesday, October 7, 2020, beginning at 10 a.m. Please email the synod office (email@example.com) or contact your conference Dean for the link.
As we move closer to our Presidential election, and in light of the memorable deaths we highlighted here, let us pray for justice for the oppressed in our society, that we be ever mindful of our responsibility to care for our neighbor in need.
Look with mercy, gracious God, upon people everywhere who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Rouse us from our complacency and help us to eliminate cruelty wherever it is found. Strengthen those who seek equality for all. Grant that everyone may enjoy a fair portion of the abundance of the earth; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+Bishop Abraham Allende