But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!
As you read these words I am on the way to Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana, and our Region Six First Call Theological Education Retreat.
For the next three days, pastors and deacons in their first call, along with mentors, bishops and bishop staff, will gather to share experiences, learn more about this ELCA church body in which they serve, and refresh and renew their sense of call. The goal is to support our leaders and equip them with resources that will enhance their ministry and enable them to better serve the people of God.
One can find a wealth of statistics on the internet as to how many pastors or church leaders are leaving the ministry and the innumerable reasons why. It is difficult to determine which ones to believe. It is even more challenging to determine how to best support them as they go about doing the mission and ministry of the church.
One point that I continually stress, especially at the installation of a pastor, is that our expectations of pastors are often unrealistic. Once a pastor is installed, many congregation members abdicate their responsibility for that mission and ministry and leave it up to the paid professional. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all are called to participate in God’s ongoing and miraculous work to heal, comfort, and restore this world.
This upcoming Sunday is the Third Sunday of Easter. We hear the Gospel story from Luke of the two disciples who make their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, passing the time and “talking with each other about all” that has happened, including the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. It’s important to note that although we hear it two weeks after the Resurrection, this story takes place on the same day of the Resurrection. So the sad events of Good Friday and the mysterious discovery of the empty tomb are still fresh in their minds.
They are joined on their journey by a seemingly clueless and out-of-touch stranger, and they begin to recount to him “the things about Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word.”
The unknown visitor on the road listens patiently to the story of Cleopas and his companion. They talk about Jesus, recalling who he was and what he had done the preceding three years. They had expected Jesus to liberate them from political oppression.
They even talk to Jesus, who walks with them for seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Nonetheless, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him,” blinded by their mistaken expectations about what God was doing in Jesus.
The three words that always jump out at me in this reading are, “WE had hoped…”
“WE had hoped…” therein lies the key. Our hopes, our plans, our expectations are often quite contrary to God’s plans and expectations.
In the waters of Baptism, God calls each and every one of us to be God’s chosen people. As Lutherans, we subscribe to the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” Ministry is the responsibility of all the baptized, not just professional clergy.
The pastor cannot do the ministry of Christ’s church alone. Your support is needed. Your support is vital. That is how God has meant it to be. We all have the power to make a difference in the lives of the people around us, not just the pastor. In our actions and in our words, we, too, can reach others, helping them understand the presence of the resurrected Jesus.
I pray that you will keep your pastor and the rest of your congregation’s staff in your prayers daily, and that your spiritual gifts can be added to the mission and ministry of your congregation, so that God will be glorified through you.
This coming Thursday and Friday, April 27-28, I will be in Columbus at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, attending the 26th Annual Nelson W. Trout Lectures, celebrating African American preaching. This year’s theme is Preaching and Moral Imagination. The featured presenter is The Rev. Frank A. Thomas, Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis. Presentations are free and open to the public. The Trout lectures, established in 1991, honor former Trinity Professor, the Rev. Dr. Nelson W. Trout (1920-1996), who was the first African American Lutheran bishop in the United States.
Saturday, April 29, the Northeastern Ohio Synod Council meets at Martin Luther Lutheran Church, in Youngstown.
Sunday, April 30, I will be with the people of God at St. Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church in Canton, as they celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
May you be filled with the abiding hope of the empty tomb, as Christ walks alongside and among you this week and always!
+Bishop Abraham Allende