MONDAY MUSINGS (Tuesday Edition)
January 22, 2019
Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #641]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, January 27, 2019, the Third Sunday after Epiphany, are as follows:
The synod pastoral team and I are at Sawmill Creek for the next three days attending the annual Professional Leadership Retreat. I have always looked forward toward this time of learning, worship and fellowship with the rostered ministers of all three Ohio synods. It is one of the ways we express our unity as a church.
Our theme is Diversity and Spirituality. We will hear a great deal on the work of the Holy Spirit and how it unites the diverse expressions of the church. In their lectures, our two presenters - the Rev. Dr. Winston Persaud of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa; and the Rev. Dr. Javier (Jay) Alanis of the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest in Austin, Texas - will address the idea that even though we are a church of many cultures, we are one.
Our time together as rostered leaders dovetails in many ways into the readings for this coming Sunday. All lessons have a lot to say about the importance of worship in our lives and the effect it should have on us who take part in it. It also says much about how we respond to the words that we hear. So much to say, in fact, that it's difficult to focus on just one lesson. However, I'd like to concentrate on the Old Testament lesson from Nehemiah.
The reading calls to mind a captivating Bible Study we heard on Nehemiah at last year's retreat from our presenter, Pastor Rachel Wren, a Ph. D. Candidate at Emory University.
In this reading from Nehemiah, we hear joy over the rediscovery of the word of God. The people of Israel had been back from exile for seven months, their city had been rebuilt and their temple restored. We read that Nehemiah, the governor, and Ezra, the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep."
In our Lutheran liturgy, you hear and say pretty much the same words week after week; yet the repetitiveness of these words or anything else in our Lutheran order of worship, from week to week, is not said just for the sake of consistency or uniformity. It is much more than that.
Everything we do in our liturgy: the confession, the greeting, the acclamations, the blessings, the prayers, and the hymns, has as its basis, Holy Scripture. It is not the result of some human's vivid imagination, but rather inspired by the word of the Lord.
When people gather to read, hear, and interpret the word of God in the assembly, it satisfies the intention of human life. We are reminded that we live by the divine word. What we have heard down through the years may be ancient, yet it is always new. It forms and informs us. It shapes and energizes our life in community.  
When we really read, hear, and interpret the word of God, it also challenges us-today, just as it did the people of Israel in the ancient times of Nehemiah.
When people gather to hear the written word proclaimed and interpreted it is a moving experience. Think of the times when you have been deeply moved by the love of a friend, the death of a parent, the innocence of a child, a good book you read or a movie you saw. I believe the word of God comes to us in many forms, if only we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to feel.
And when we are so moved, our tendency is to share. In the same manner, God's word should move us in such a way that we cannot remain the same.
Our encounter with the word launches us into the world, to work together with God for the sake of establishing God's reign of justice and peace, of righteousness, compassion, caring and sharing. We become agents of transformation, transfiguration and radical change.
Through God's Word, we are called to be God's witnesses on earth; to be a radical community on earth. This, in a sense, is what the Body of Christ and community of faith is - God's hands delivering the promise of good news to all who come in need.
God's Word is always related to human need.  We are called and empowered to work for the release of people who are bound-the rehabilitation of prisoners, the freeing of people wrapped in their shells of self-doubt and self-pity. We are called and empowered to work on behalf of the poor and oppressed.
We attend church for many reasons. Whether it be because we enjoy seeing old friends, or we hope to hear a sermon that will not bore us to death, hopefully the Word of God will touch our hearts and lives in some meaningful and life-giving way. May you be filled with the joy of God's presence, and may the joy of the Lord be your strength.
This coming Saturday, January 26, at 10:30 a.m., I will be with the people of God at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Massillon, Ohio, to install their new pastor, the Rev. Mark Kreemer. Pastor Kreemer comes from the Metropolitan New York Synod. Welcome to Northeastern Ohio. All rostered leaders are invited to vest and process. The color of the day is green.
This week and always, may the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be acceptable in God's sight.
+Bishop Abraham Allende