[God said:] “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
As you read this week’s musings, I am on a train bound for Washington, D. C., where for the next three days, I and many other ELCA bishops, churchwide staff, church and community leaders from across the United States, as well as several international partners will take part in ELCA Advocacy Days.
During this time, we will engage with our elected leaders on matters of importance to the ELCA; issues such as protection of vulnerable migrants, refugees, asylum seekers. and unaccompanied minors.
You may wonder why we do this.
As our ELCA Social Statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, states: “The Gospel does not take the Church out of the world but instead calls it to affirm and to enter more deeply into the world.”
As Lutherans, we feel called to live out our unique contribution to public witness. At this time in history, we are living in a country utterly separated by partisan politics, by contentious rhetoric, by the color of the state, and by our stubborn refusal to even hear the other side and to try and work together for a common good. Our challenge as Christians and as the Church is to demonstrate to the world that there is a better way.
No matter how distressed, forlorn, hopeless, despairing, discouraged, or despondent a people may be, it is our firm conviction that God can change situations. The movement of God’s strangely mysterious Spirit acting in our world has the power to change everything when we least expect it.
If you observe the history of this world, or even your own life journey, the futures have all taken strange twists and turns. I certainly never expected to be where I am at this point in my life. God’s Spirit always surprises us.
God’s presence within history is a mysterious force that turns expectations into disappointments and disappointments into new expectations. The readings for this upcoming Fifth Sunday in Lent affirm that.
You will note that they all deal with death and resurrection. We hear the story of the raising of Lazarus in our Gospel lesson. Our Old Testament reading is the well-known valley of the dry bones narrative from Ezekiel. And the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, ties those two stories together perfectly by stating: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
These lessons invite us to reflect on what it means to embrace Jesus as the resurrection and the life and ask ourselves, what impact does that have on the shaping of our Christian lives?
Let me suggest these thoughts: Jesus’ life penetrates the world’s despair, darkness and death. Jesus is a pillar of confidence among a sea of doubters. Jesus is a model of faith for those whose faith is wavering.
As we have been making our way through Lent’s Forty Days we have heard the accounts of signs that Jesus performed so that people would believe. And I can’t think of a better way of closing this week that with the words of the apostle Paul once again. This is one of my favorite verses, which I often use as a final blessing:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Romans 15:13]
· This coming Sunday morning, April 2, I will be visiting with the people of God at Zion Lutheran Church, North Canton.
· That same Sunday afternoon, I will install Pastor Bradley Ross, called to serve the people of God at Triune Lutheran Church, Broadview Heights, and the Lutheran Church of the Covenant, Maple Heights. The installation will take place at Covenant at 4:30 p.m. All rostered ministers are invited to vest and process. The color of the day is purple.
This installation will be somewhat emotional for me. As many of you may recall, I served the Lutheran Church of the Covenant for five years before being called to the office of Bishop. I have many fond memories of the people there and the ministry that was carried out in Jesus’ name.
Both Covenant and Triune have waited longer than usual for a new pastor. I pray for all God’s richest blessings on the two congregations as they begin this new life and partnership together.
+Bishop Abraham Allende