Thursday, March 10, 2016

Psalm 126

Isaiah 43:1-7

Philippians 2:19-24

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

   I have called you by name, you are mine.

  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

   and the flame shall not consume you.

[Isaiah 43:1b-2 New Revised Standard Version]

I’m back from the Conference of Bishops and trying to catch up both on the office tasks that have piled up in my absence and the posting that I failed to do while I was away. The days were so long and with all the reading required in the evenings I was so exhausted that I had to sacrifice the reflections. So I will now resume writing daily hopefully without interruption.

One of my greatest realizations during the past week was how much information I was able to absorb and retain. I actually felt I could speak knowledgeably about the issues that we discussed during the Conference. This was quite a contrast from my first two Conferences in which I was totally overwhelmed and terrified that I may have ventured into territory far beyond my intellectual capacity to navigate.

It is in situations like this that I find comfort in the Isaiah passage quoted at the top of this reflection. In just the first two lines, one of the first emotions that grabs me is the feeling of belonging.  “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth

In other words, God assures me that, “You belong to me — I chose you.” I have to remind myself often in this office that being Bishop was God’s idea before it was mine. I didn’t choose to do this, God did.

We all need reminding and reassurance of the simplest, truest, most basic things in our lives.  Who are we?  What is our purpose?  What’s it all about?  Why am I going through all this difficulty? 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

 “Do not fear.”

These are perhaps the most repeated words in scripture, found more than 70 times in the bible.  They are words spoken by Angels and by prophets at the command of God to God’s people, to God’s servants. 

And they are words spoken by Jesus—over and over again—words spoken more often by him than by anyone else—to his disciples and followers—to us.

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman

As baptized children of God, as Christians, we are always struggling to find God’s path, always struggling with doubts and obstacles, wondering if God is really there, really caring about the choices we are making, looking for some sign from above, some words of affirmation.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

No matter what our age may be, this is God’s fundamental attitude towards us. We belong to God, and God loves us. No matter what happens and no matter how low and discouraged we feel, no matter what is happening around us and in our life, we are precious and beloved children of God.

It is providentially coincidental that on this day our Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal commemorates two renewers of society: Harriet Tubman, who died in 1913; and Sojourner Truth, who died in 1883.

Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, helped about 300 others to escape slavery until the institution was abolished. Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella, was freed after slavery was abolished, and discerned a call to be a preacher. Taking the name Sojourner Truth, she set out on an evangelistic journey, where people found her testimony to be deeply moving.

These two exemplary people took the prophet’s words to heart, reinforcing the idea that God loves you and me and all of us.  And that love has been demonstrated throughout all of history.

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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