February 25, 2019
Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light                             
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #671]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, March 3, 2019, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, are as follows:
All this week I am in Chicago for a variety of meetings.
Today, Monday, the Task Force for a Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity gathers Monday and Tuesday to put the finishing touches of the document which will be submitted to the ELCA Church Council, and subsequently presented for adoption to the triennial Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee in August.
Wednesday, our seminary leaders and our six bishops of color have a follow-up meeting to further discussions from our first time together in San Antonio in January. This gathering is somewhat related to the strategy task force in that we are also exploring ways to dismantle racism and oppression in theological education and formation for ministry.
And then from Thursday to Monday, our Conference of Bishops convenes in our annual spring meeting. In addition to our course of normal business, we will devote the bulk of our time to a discussion about congregational vitality.
Congregational Vitality is a consequence of the ELCA's Future Directions Initiative, which looks ahead to where we feel the Holy Spirit is leading the church. Across most mainline denominations of the church, there is concern over the decline in people, pastors, and resources. The very existence of the church in the future is somewhat in question.
Congregational vitality, however, does not necessarily seek numerical growth, but a growth in relationship with God, with each other and with our respective communities. The ELCA website offers a quick thumbnail sketch of what this means. You can view it by clicking HERE .
Just last Sunday an adult in a Sunday School class I visited asked me the question, "Where do you see the future of this church?"
I confessed that I honestly didn't know, but it's Christ's church and it's been around for over two-thousand years and I had no fear that it would disappear anytime soon. However, I added, it will certainly look different than the church we see today.
I couldn't help but make a connection with the readings for this coming Sunday of the Transfiguration and where the Spirit is leading the church.
Two passages in our readings jump out at me immediately.
In the epistle, Paul writes: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart." [2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1]
 The Transfiguration -- Jesus Mafa, Cameroon
And in the Gospel according to Luke, we once again hear about Jesus' transfiguration. But note how the reading begins: "Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray."
Our need to trust in the power of the Spirit and our need to take our needs to God in prayer are vital if we are to experience any vitality in our church. Paul uses such words as hope, boldness and freedom.
It is that type of thinking that shakes off the shackles of fear and tentativeness, the type of thinking that comes about only through faith in Christ. We act boldly because we know that God is with us and will not abandon us. Without that faith we are like the disciples who couldn't heal the child once Jesus came down from the mountain.
God is with us, and speaks to us, and gives us the words of hope and strength for all time, both on the mountaintops and in the valleys of our lives.
On Ash Wednesday, March 6 , we will once again celebrate an Ash Wednesday Eucharist with the imposition of ashes, at the Lutheran Center (Synod Offices), 1890 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, beginning at noon. If you are in the area, or are looking for a place to worship, we invite you to join us.
Also again this year, we will publish our annual Lenten Prayer List for 2019 (available on Wednesday E-News), listing all rostered ministers and congregations. As is customary, I encourage you to make prayer for pastors, deacons and congregations a part of your Lenten discipline.
Throughout the season of Lent at the Lutheran Center, we gather daily promptly at noon in the chapel for a brief period of prayer. The time will include a hymn, a reading from Scripture, a brief reflection, as well as petitions for specific persons and congregations taken from the prayer calendar. You are also invited to join us for that interlude, which takes no more than 15 minutes.
This week and always, may you proclaim the greatness of the Lord and worship upon God's holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One.  [Psalm 99:9]
+Bishop Abraham Allende