Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
It’s hard to imagine that we are halfway through summer. People are scrambling to get away for vacations. If you are parents, your calendar tells you that in a little over a month, youngsters will be returning to school. If you’ve planned any repair projects, they’d better get done soon. The reading goals I set earlier in the year are becoming increasingly more elusive as the year moves rapidly along.
But my time of relaxation must wait yet a few more weeks.
This coming Friday I’ll be boarding an Amtrak train to Philadelphia and the 2017 biennial convention of the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) Assembly. This assembly is significant in that it will be a joint celebration with the Union of Black Episcopalians. To echo the words of the psalmist, “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” [Psalm 133:1]
We will gather under the theme: “Like a Mighty Stream, Let Justice Roll. Absalom, Jehu and Beyond…”
The first part of the theme is an obvious reference to the words of the prophet Amos in chapter Five, verse 24: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”
The names Absalom and Jehu denote Absalom Jones, the first African-American priest to be ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1804; and Jehu Jones, a Lutheran minister who founded one of the first African-American Lutheran congregations in the United States, St. Paul’s in 1833. Philadelphia was the city where both men made their mark in history.
This is also the 30th anniversary of ADLA, and, of course, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. That’s quite a basketful of commemorations.
I have been blessed with the responsibility of preaching at the opening eucharist on Sunday. I approach each and every preaching assignment seriously, but I confess that I find this a daunting challenge. I always want to leave whoever hears my words with a sense that God has spoken through me. I also try to communicate something from scripture that has meaning and practical application to the listener’s life. This sermon demands more.
Though I’m hesitant to generalize, I believe that for African Americans, faith is more than abstract theology. It is personal. It is heartfelt. It is an instrument though which we are given the boldness to be prophetic, the courage to speak truth to power, and the strength to work to Improve oppressive conditions.
It is that kind of faith that enabled people like Absalom and Jehu to conquer their encumbered upbringing as slaves, contest the oppression of society, and confront the sinful racism of the church they were called to serve.
Today, there is no shortage of injustice in society: the general culture of fear and anger that pervades our lives, coupled with the petty political bickering over healthcare, immigration, and other important legislation that paralyzes our federal government and puts our general welfare at risk; the gun violence that lays waste to humanity and endangers the safety of both citizens and those who are paid to protect them; the economic disparity that creates a massive division between rich and poor. Those are but a few. If I were to list them all, you would still be reading this page next month.
Faith compels a conscious effort to respond to these matters and whatever other demand is made of us in order to “live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called,” as the apostle Paul begs us in his letter to the Ephesian Christians. [Eph. 4:1] Faith is essential in order to give us all a sense of witness, meaning and purpose.
I ask your prayers that next Sunday I can raise these issues with authority; that I may preach with Christlike humility, in a way that is true to the gospel, that proclaims faithful witness; and, above all, that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in God’s sight, and glorify my Lord and Redeemer.
It was suggested that I repeat this item from last week, just in case you may have missed it. For those of you who weren’t present at our Synod Assembly, I invite you to read my report to the Assembly by clicking HERE. In keeping with the theme, “God’s Word, Our Heritage, Our Hope,” it was my intent to demonstrate how our Lutheran heritage is reflected in activities around the synod. Feel free to download the report and share with your congregation.
My prayer for you this week is that the seeds of God’s kingdom grow in your heart, so that your spirit bear witness that you are a child of God, and that you may live in hope for what you do not see, and wait for it with patience.
+Bishop Abraham Allende