April 30, 2019
O God, Father in heaven, have mercy upon us.
Your heart, O God, is grieved, we know,
by ev'ry evil, ev'ry woe;
upon your cross-forsaken Son
our death is laid, and peace is won.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #602]
The readings for May 5, 2019, the Third Sunday of Easter, are as follows:
Sunday evening, April 28, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, I was part of an interfaith Service of Remembrance. The original purpose was to remember the victims of the bombing attacks in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, but was expanded to include those shot and killed at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27.
The liturgy was simple yet moving; scripture readings, reflections, prayers, and songs.
But what made it a powerful witness was the presence of the religious leaders of many different faiths, and the assembly of people from the Sri Lankan and Jewish communities of Cleveland, alongside many Christians who were present to show their support and solidarity for those affected. The event was coordinated in a matter of days. I do hope you'll take the time to read the more complete account of the service by clicking on the link above.
When horrendous events such as these bring us together to console one another in our grief, it is tempting to ask, where is God in all this?
The answer is in plain sight.
When we gather together on such occasions as we did last Sunday, our mere presence helps to dispel the darkness of evil, the gloom of despair, and the heaviness of hatred. It brings to mind a quote from Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer.
"When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope." [1]
God is present in the midst of the suffering. Despite the many acts of violence that have seemingly taken place in such quick succession recently, I pray that we never become so desensitized that we feel hopeless.
I also pray that we become more active in speaking out against evil and social injustice, that we not allow hatred to have the last word.
God has designed us as human beings to live in harmony with each other. And in our baptism, God entrusts us, among other things, to care for others and the world God made, and to work for justice and peace. Our task, as followers of Jesus, is to remind one another of our baptisms, to make the Lord's rescuing and sustaining actions available to all people.
May it be so.
A brief word on this Sunday's readings in which are found two amazing stories of grace.
The first is the Gospel account of Peter's encounter with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. The other is from the first reading in the book of Acts - the conversion of Paul, his famous "road to Damascus" experience.
I encourage you to read and re-read the story of Paul because it is such an amazing story of the lengths to which Jesus will go to claim us.
As for Peter, Jesus brought Peter back from shame to lead his church. (Remember, Peter denied Jesus three times!) Peter stands for every Christian - a community of common sinners in the process of being loved into being and truth by the living God.
The two men are very different. Their circumstances are very different. But the profound meaning of the two experiences is nonetheless exactly the same. We serve a God of grace, a God who meets us where we are, but doesn't leave us where he finds us.
Friday, May 3, I have the honor of delivering the invocation at the 27th Annual Naturalization Ceremony, presented by the Stark County Bar Association's American Citizenship Committee, as part of its Law Week activities. The event will welcome several new United States citizens, who have gone through the naturalization process and will now have all the rights and privileges that this country affords. I am told it is a moving ceremony, and I look forward to being a part of it.
The event begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Canton Central Catholic High School auditorium.
A reminder that this Saturday, May 4, is our Spring Bishop's Gathering at St. Jacob's Lutheran Church in North Canton. The theme for the gathering will be
I Love to Tell the Story...but. The combined Stewardship, Mission Interpreters, and Discipling and Evangelizing Tables have planned this event, which has as its purpose to equip the baptized to talk of their faith.
Our presenter will be the Rev. Katie Kerrigan, Director for Evangelical Mission of the Southern Ohio Synod.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Program will go from 9 a.m. until noon. You may register at the door. There is a cost of $5 per congregation. We look forward to seeing you there.
This Easter season and always, may God turn your wailing into dancing; may God put off your sackcloth and clothe you with joy.
+Bishop Abraham Allende

[1] Nouwen, Henri.  The Wounded Healer . Doubleday New York, 1972 (p. 93)