October 23, 2018
For we hold that a person is justified by faith
apart from works prescribed by the law.
[Romans 3:28]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, October 28, 2018, Reformation Sunday, are as follows:
  Statue of Martin Luther,
  Wartburg Theological
  Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
This coming Sunday, most Lutheran congregations will observe Reformation Sunday. The actual day is October 31, and remembers the day when Martin Luther supposedly nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, thus sparking a movement that that swept throughout Germany and the rest of the Holy Roman Empire and dramatically changed the Christian Church.
Last year, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the commemoration was marked in large part by joint worship services with Roman Catholic parishes and dioceses in many parts of the world, acknowledging that though our Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches have been wounded by 500 years of division, there is still more that unites us rather than separates us.
Luther's reforming agenda still poses a spiritual and theological challenge for contemporary Catholics and Lutherans alike. There is still pain in the Christian division, especially at the Eucharist, which cuts into families and communities. I pray that as we continue into the next year and beyond, we will focus not only on healing those divisions but on how to live out our Christian witness to the world. God's continuing and hopeful call to the church is, "that we may all be one."
But reform seeks more than Christian unity. As Luther himself writes in his treatise, The Freedom of a Christian, "...the primary concern of each and every Christian ought to be that, by putting aside the supposition about works, they strengthen faith alone more and more and through that faith ' knowledge' not of works but 'of Christ Jesus,' who suffered and rose again for them." [1]
Luther spent a great deal of time trying to know who God was, and to find ways of expressing what he came to know and believe, so that others would know God too. Without the Reformation, we probably wouldn't have an English-language Bible in every church pew, hotel room, or home. To put the Bible in the hands of the common person was an absolutely revolutionary idea for its time! It gave men and women direct access to God, bypassing the religious authorities!
Yet for many in our world, the church is still an alien concept. Church buildings are curious but foreign territory. Many seekers are looking for God but are reluctant to enter the doors of the church, because they are bewildered by it all. For some, the closest they may get to the Christ and the cross is the Christ and the cross they see in us. That is what it means to be a witness for the Lord.
Today the church continues to live with that challenge: to live in a way that does not hide God's love and grace. This is what it means to be Lutheran-that we believe and confess that those who wish to be saved, shall live, not by works, but by faith, in Jesus Christ. That we put our faith, not in ourselves, or what we do or don't do, in what we have accomplished or failed to accomplish-but in the crucified and risen Jesus. 
We can only do that by, to paraphrase Luther, "growing in God's word." Daily devotions, reading the Bible, deepening our faith sounds like a lot of work. But as with anything else, the effort eventually will bear fruit.
The central purpose of our calling as Christians is to proclaim the message of Christ's life, death and resurrection to the world. To walk in the way of the cross in the world. To make God's love known by loving God and loving one another, and show others that we are disciples, by living lives of love and humble service.
I failed to mention last week that the synod office would be closed on Monday, so the posting of this week's Musings would be on Tuesday. It happens after every Synod Council meeting in order to give our support staff time off for having to work on Saturday. So, I apologize if your schedule was thrown off a little.
Just to reflect back on this past weekend briefly, our annual Synod Council Retreat at Camp Mowana was productive.
We gathered on Friday evening to worship, orient the new council members, as well as refresh some things for the returning ones.
In addition to addressing the business of the church, we also spent the greater part of Saturday in discernment as to how Council members could become more involved in advancing God's mission and the mission of the Synod in our corner of creation.
My hope is that the time together will develop a sense of community among the members of Council and strengthen the relationships among all of us in the Northeastern Ohio Synod, uniting us in purpose so that God will be glorified.
Today, Tuesday, I will be in Cleveland to gather with several other ecumenical and interfaith leaders for a time of fellowship and conversation. Bishop Nelson PĂ©rez, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, initiated these quarterly dialogues in February of this year, so that we could get better acquainted with each other, learn from each other, and explore what issues we could address with a unified voice. Today's get-together, our third, will be hosted by Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.
Sunday evening at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Alliance, my colleague and sister in Christ, Bishop Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt of the Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA, will be the guest preacher at this year's annual Reformation Service, hosted by the Eastern Cluster of the Canton-Massillon Conference.  The service begins at 7:00 p.m. on Reformation Sunday, October 28, 2018. I invite you to attend this meaningful worship, which is one of the few remaining services of its type that is still celebrated collaboratively among congregations in our synod.
This week and always, may you take comfort in the assurance that the Lord of hosts is with us, and the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
+Bishop Abraham Allende

[1] Martin Luther,  The Freedom of a Christian , The Annotated Luther Study Edition, Timothy J. Wengert, ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press) p. 493