September 4, 2018
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
[James 2:17]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, September 9, the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:

How would you like to be remembered after you die?
I would venture to guess many of you may have asked yourself that question sometime over the last week as the nation's eyes were riveted to the television coverage of the funerals of two individuals whose lives had a tremendous influence on a significant number of people.
For anyone over the age of fifty, the music of Aretha Franklin - more popularly known as "the queen of soul" - made up an essential share of the soundtrack of our early years. It's hard to imagine anyone who doesn't have a favorite Aretha song that immediately evokes a memory of something one did or said each time it was heard.
John McCain -- Aretha Franklin
In the field of politics, the death of Senator John McCain immediately brought back vivid memories of the 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns, and his hard-fought, but unsuccessful bids to become the nation's chief executive. Despite his unfulfilled ultimate ambition, the outpouring of tributes conferred greater attention on his commitment to country, his heroic military service and various other notable achievements.
The two will be linked together forever in history because of the proximity of their deaths. However, their lives, though markedly different, both speak to the indomitably of the human spirit when challenged with oftentimes overwhelming adversity. Above all, both will also be remembered for how highly they valued relationships.
   Pastor Frank Gross                       Pastor Chuck Lundquist
Over the past weekend, I presided at the funerals of two of our synod's pastors - the Rev. Frank Gross, and the Rev. Charles Lundquist - who served the church with great devotion and left an indelible mark on the lives they touched throughout their years of faithful ministry. Their deaths didn't generate anywhere near the volume of publicity that Franklin's and McCain's did, but the impact they had on the souls of the faithful was just as great, if not greater.
Though our readings for this coming Sunday make only a passing reference to death (read Psalm 146), they have everything to do with how we live our life.

In our Gospel reading, we are jolted when we read what seems to be shockingly scandalous behavior on the part of Jesus, who calls a Syrophoenician woman a dog, before finally changing his mind and healing her daughter. It goes against everything we were taught about Jesus being a friend of the poor, the widow, the stranger and the marginalized. It proves Jesus very human.
And in the letter from James to the early Christians, he accuses his audience of dishonoring the poor, while favoring the rich, and goes on to give concrete examples.
But what about Christians of today? When it comes right down to it, we're really not much different. We discriminate, and we play favorites for many reasons; race, religion, gender, intelligence, politics, and nationality among others. We tend to judge one another and treat others differently according to their status in life. We place a high value on appearances. We favor people with money. It is our natural human sinful tendency to put up walls all around to separate us from everything we consider different.
Our relationships, our choices, our attitudes and morals should be influenced by our faith. Daily we make decisions based on our reaction to people and situations we face. If we are confident in our faith, it can serve as a dependable guide.  But if we are downright honest about our faith and its effect on our lives, we will have to admit that we fail miserably when it comes to putting our faith into action. 
The commandment to love is not abstract. It is not lacking in content.  Our challenge as people of God is to care for others, despite differences. But this challenge begins with challenging our own perspectives.
One of my favorite writers, Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, shares an interesting perspective. She writes:
"Our role in life is not to convert others. It's not even to influence them. It certainly is not to impress them. Our goal in life is to convert ourselves from the pernicious agenda that is the self, to an awareness of God's goodness present in the other." 1
So, how would you like to be remembered after you die? What memory will you leave and what influence will remain?  
Thankfully, God cares for all of us. We are all part of the kingdom. Whether or not we are willing to put aside that sense of status, we are blessed with the capacity to love others without envy, without bitterness, without reservation, just as God loves us.
  This Sunday, September 9, the ELCA celebrates "God's work. Our hands." a day when congregations dedicate themselves to service in their respective communities. In the words of our Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, "This day is an opportunity to celebrate who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor."
The day has developed and grown considerably from its beginning in 2013, and many congregations have expanded to do more than one day. We ask that you share a photo or two of your service projects with us so that we can post it on our social media platforms in the coming weeks.
Also Sunday, September 9, I will be among the people of God at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Warren, as they celebrate their 150 th anniversary.
This week and always, may we praise the Lord as long as we live; and sing praises to our God while we have our being. [Psalm 146:2]
+Bishop Abraham Allende

Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light  (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2000), pp. 127-128