[Jesus said:] “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!
Around the Lutheran Center (synod office) we are in “pre-assembly mode.” With less than a month to go before our annual Northeastern Ohio Synod gathering, June 9-10, at the John S. Knight Center in Akron, we are busy making sure that all materials are ready, reports are completed, registrations are recorded, and everyone is prepared for the day-and-a-half when we meet to worship, fellowship, and deliberate the matters of the church.
As one might imagine, the anxiety level is slightly higher than normal.
I thought that holding the synod assembly a little later than in years past would reduce the stress; but as I read the summaries that my colleague bishops post after their assemblies, I experience a small sense of envy, wishing that I were already looking at this event in the rear-view mirror.
But there’s also an advantage in holding the assembly later than usual. A couple weeks ago, I visited the Southeast Michigan Synod Assembly at which they were holding a Bishop Election. It was helpful preparation, almost like a rehearsal. I saw things that we could implement in future assemblies and came across ideas that would be useful in the years to come.
I continue to grow in this office and as each assembly comes and goes, I learn more about leadership, the importance of goal-setting, and the necessity for teamwork. But most importantly, I develop the courage to put my concerns in God’s hands.
Putting concerns in God’s hands doesn’t mean that we stop doing all that we feel is essential to a fruitful assembly; but rather, that once we do all those things, we put our trust in the one who “gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” [Acts 17:25]
And not only that. Confiding that sometimes God gives the unexpected and spectacular. In his book, Faith Seeking, the British theologian, Denys Turner, wrote, “Our whole lives are therefore lives lived in the expectation of the unexpected, we live, as Christians, in this condition of waiting, open to every possibility or demand; but we will as often as not be unprepared when it comes, for we never know when the Spirit will surprise us. We wait for the Spirit, therefore, but he always comes, for the Spirit is already in our waiting.”
As we move further into this Easter season, we anticipate the coming of Pentecost and the promise of the Holy Spirit. It is that same Holy Spirit that empowers us to face the future, for God himself stands by our side, in fact even closer than that. God is so close that he is “in” us, gives us the strength to move forward in faith and enables us to be helpers to each other.
In this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus promises his disciples: “I will not leave you orphaned.” [John 14:18]
What a comforting reassurance that is! These are words of hope for you and me.
As we move through the various circumstances of this imperfect and often broken world, our risen Savior assures us that we are never abandoned, forgotten or overlooked. We have a God who loves us; who gave us God’s Son, Jesus, and through him has equipped us to be his disciples, to follow his word, empowering us to serve our Lord in the church, and to be a place and community where God and Jesus dwell.
As Paul declares in our first reading from Acts, “In him we live and move and have our being.”
Saturday morning, May 20, at 10:00 a.m., I will be with the people of God at First Lutheran Church in Lorain, to install their new pastor, the Rev. Rosalina Rivera. The service will be held at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School, 2700 Washington Ave., where they have worshipped since fire destroyed their building in August of 2014.
Meanwhile, construction of their new building continues and should be ready for occupancy sometime in the early autumn. Please keep the people of First in your prayers as they celebrate all these joyful transitions.
Sunday, May 21, I will be with the people of God at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Louisville to preach and preside at their worship service.
I say this to all congregations I visit and it is worth repeating here. The greatest joy that I experience in my call as bishop happens when I am with the people of God at the time of worship and praise and celebration. I find these moments life giving and enriching to this ministry to which Christ has called me. I welcome your invitations.
May God, who made the world and everything in it, live and move and dwell within you; that you may feel the presence of God’s Holy Spirit this week and always!
+Bishop Abraham Allende