Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Genesis 17:17

I have been at the Conference of Bishops since Thursday, March 5 and will be here until Tuesday, March 10. It’s my second time among the other 64 synodical bishops and the overload of information continues to overwhelm. I keep grasping a snippet of knowledge here and there but if any of you have ever drunk from a fire hose, you may understand the impact. As I sat at worship on Sunday morning among this group of esteemed colleagues, I found it difficult not to recall and reflect on the unbelievable series of events that brought me to this point along my journey of faith.

Few people, if any, keep track of half-anniversaries, but on March 1, I marked sixmonths in the office of bishop. A week or so after that date, March 10, to be exact, marks a year since I received the telephone call informing me that I was among the top ten names that surfaced in the conference votes that had taken place the second Sunday in March, which was also the second Sunday in Lent of 2014.

The cross at the Lutheran Center, Chicago.
The cross at the Lutheran Center, Chicago.

Each year in our lectionary, the assigned Old Testament readings for the Second Sunday in Lent are taken from Genesis and are associated with the call to Abraham. God makes promises to Abraham that on the surface sound outrageous.

As you may imagine, I relate to this story. Not just because of the similarity of my name, but more so because the story of the call to Abraham offers you and me a lens through which we can understand our relationship with the living God.

One year ago, my plans for the future were pretty clear. My wife, Linda, and I had begun dreaming of leisurely living and long vacations. The only major decision was at what point I would put closure to full-time ministry.

And God laughed.

The thrust of the story of Abraham is that Abraham believed and obeyed what God told him. And I would like to think that I, too, have obeyed. I pray daily that God will continue to equip me with what is needed to faithfully fulfill the ministry to which I have now been called.

In much the same way we are all called.  We are called in the waters of baptism to be a child of God, to become a member of a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

Having been called, we do as Abraham did.  We obey.  We do God’s will in our lives.  We follow God’s commands to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul. And we follow God’s command, also, to love those around us in our lives.

Will we always obey God?  That’s not humanly possible.  We are all sinful.  Even Abraham sinned. 

But, in those moments when we sin, we can be assured that we are living under the care and watchful eye of the Holy Spirit, and we are able to ask and receive forgiveness. Then, by God’s grace, we followthrough and go out and do what God has called us to do.  Not always, and never on our own, are we able to do God’s will in our lives.

That is what faith is: to believe that God can do what he has promised. It is to trust the promises of God so implicitly that you act on them. The season of Lent is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on our faith and in whom we place our trust.

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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