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JUNE 19, 2017

[Jesus said:] Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

 [Matthew 10:28-31]

Some of you may be old enough to remembers the hit song, “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,” sung by the late Nat King Cole in 1963.

The way this year has gone, I would put the emphasis on “Crazy.” The polarization that appears to drive our society and the world – especially when it comes to politics – has risen to a distressing level. The shooting of legislators at a baseball practice last Wednesday is the latest example of the numerous violent outbursts that have proliferated recently. All one has to do is read the local paper, the news online, watch television, or log in to social media to see the litany of divided opinion.

In the midst of all this anger and anxiety, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all children of God and loved by God in equal measure. And that is important to remember especially in these tense times in which we find ourselves.

Relationships matter. Yet we often let our temper get in the way of our better judgment. If we’re not careful, our mouths and our actions will offend someone at one point or another. When that happens, our first reaction is usually to justify our behavior, unwilling to repent, and thereby failing to let the love of Christ influence how we regard other people.

Jesus’ words this week in the Gospel of Matthew, remind us that not even his message was universally welcomed in the world that he came to save. Likewise, before sending out his disciples, he cautioned them of the perils that lay ahead. They would most often be greeted with contempt, not contentment.

Nevertheless, God cares for us. In fact, God cares so much that God came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and lived among all the fears, doubts, frustrations, worries and tensions. He did this so that he could set us free. Jesus died and rose again to lift the worry and fear from us, and clearly show us the beauty and the glory of God’s love and forgiveness and tender care. He even forgives us for our lack of trust!

No matter what is happening in our life, God has an intimate knowledge of every detail. It may be that we are suffering in silence, or that our friends and family do not appreciate the depth of our anguish and pain, however, in the end God knows everything. God knows in detail everything and everybody who give us some reason to be afraid.

Jesus points that out in the illustration of the sparrows. We are more valuable than any sparrow. Our lives are in God’s hands and God is the one who provides, who protects, who enriches our lives, who works things for good. For that reason, we are confident that God will never leave us in the lurch and will always be right beside us as we seek to give expression to our oneness with Christ in our every day relationships.

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This Sunday, June 25, I will be with the people of God at Zion in Valley City in the morning.

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In the afternoon at 2:00 p.m., I will be at Good Shepherd, Brooklyn, as they hold their final worship service in that building. We will gather together with so many good and treasured memories, but with a strong sense of grief at saying farewell to a hallowed place. As with all earthly things, whether people or institutions, they eventually come to an end and pass away.

The closing of a congregation is always painful, like a death. But sometimes closing is the most faithful decision a congregation can make. I invite you to attend, if possible, and to hold the congregation in prayer as they find new worship communities in other area churches.

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And my prayer for you is that God guide your hearts, guard your steps, and give us all the courage to witness to the power of God in our lives this week and always.

+Bishop Abraham Allende

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JUNE 13, 2017

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 

[Romans 5:1-2]

My third Synod Assembly as Bishop is in the books and I couldn’t be more pleased with the day-and-a-half proceedings. Our Synod Secretary, David Lenz, will have a more complete summary hopefully in time for Wednesday’s e-news, but I want to take a moment here to reflect on a couple significant moments for me.

Members of the LYO Board following Friday’s Eucharist

For the first time, the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) summer event was held alongside our assembly, giving us a chance to incorporate the young people into our assembly. They led the opening Eucharist, facilitated a workshop on effective ways to integrate youth into the church and, in general, were a presence throughout the day-and-a-half, interacting with voting members and guests. The youth also took part in their own activities and service projects. Nearby Holy Trinity Lutheran Church was the host congregation for the young people. This part of the assembly left me feeling like a proud grandpa. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. We aim to make this an annual parallel event.

The Synod Worship Committee, which always does a superb job of preparing the liturgies, deserves special praise. On both days, we began with Morning Prayer, and ended Friday with Evening Prayer. We held Eucharist services at noon on Friday and at the closing of the assembly. The chair of the committee, Deacon Brian Wentzel, put together a choir that, with only two hours of practice, sounded almost angelic.

There were the usual matters of adopting a budget, elections to council positions, resolutions, salary guidelines, constitution and by-law changes, ecumenical greetings, installation of newly elected, and anniversary recognitions. In addition, all our workshops of a variety of topics were well attended.

I give thanks to God for all the people, especially the youth, who worked hard to make this all possible

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We are entering into what is called in some traditions the season after Pentecost.  Others refer to it as the “green season” after its liturgical color.  In other traditions, it is known as the ordinary season, because we are not celebrating any major festival during these ordinary Sundays.  However, there is nothing ordinary about the Sundays nor the season.

We are about to enter into the teaching season of the church.  The season in which the Gospel lessons will concentrate on Jesus’ ministry and what it means to be disciples. You may also notice that for the next three months, all the second readings will come from Paul’s letter to the Romans, this Sunday’s reading being one of my favorites. A portion of it is found at the top of today’s musing.

This season is important to the deepening your faith.  Though you may not have Sunday school classes in the summer, I would encourage not to take the summer off when it comes to learning. These lessons are vitally important in helping us make sense of our faith.  Long absences from church are not conducive to learning.  Yes, we all need vacations.  But keep in mind that God does not take a vacation from you.

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This Sunday morning, I will be in Beach City to visit with the people of God at First Lutheran Church and celebrate Pastor Steve Patrick’s 40th Anniversary of Ordination.

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This is also Father’s Day. We don’t seem to make as big a deal of Father’s Day as we do Mother’s Day, but I want to leave you with a small part of a poem I read somewhere once, just to set the tone for this coming week. It

Fathers are wonderful people

                too little understood,

And we do not sing their praises

                as often as we should 

It goes on for a few more verses, but you get the idea. Honor your Father this Sunday if you are fortunate to have yours still around.

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And my prayer for you is that God keep us steadfast to the task of learning and growing and deepening our faith this week and always, and looking forward to that day when it will all make sense for us.

+Bishop Abraham Allende

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JUNE 5, 2017

Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

[2 Corinthians 13:11]

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. It is a day when the Church celebrates a doctrine, not an event, nor an ancient religious festival.  Historians note that the early Christians were driven by their desire to know God more fully and to try to put into words their experience of God’s relationship to all creation. 

I talk ad nauseam about relationship.

Human beings are social creatures. We were not meant to live alone, but in relationship with each other. When we are discouraged and overwhelmed with negative thoughts or feelings; when we are confused, and overcome with sadness and sorrow, there is nothing better than someone who is there to comfort, reassure and redirect our trust and give us confidence. No one is exempt.

Cavs’ fans in downtown Cleveland, June 2016

The same is true when good things happen. When we are joyful, that joy is enhanced when one has someone else with whom to share it. Think back to the million-plus people who turned out for the Cavaliers’ victory parade last June when they won the NBA Championship.

Church is also about relationship – and more. At the root of relationships is love. You can’t fully or finally understand God without talking about relationship of love. Our greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. The Kingdom of God is not one of isolation, but of relationship.

God is so full of love that there has to be some way of talking about that love shared in and through profound relationships. From the very beginning of time the dynamic power of love that is at the heart of God’s identity and character can only be captured by thinking of the love that is shared.

When God calls us, God calls us into community or into relationship with one another.  That is why we are the church.  We cannot be Christians by ourselves.

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It’s Assembly week!

For the past four weeks, I’ve spoken about our Synod Assembly so much that you’re probably tired of reading about it. I’ll give you advance warning that I will mention it again next week when it’s all over.

This is now my third assembly as bishop. The anxiety level is higher because there are so many things happening that haven’t happened before. We experiment with electronic balloting. We have the youth event alongside the assembly.

Please keep us in prayer as we begin Friday morning at the Knight Center in downtown Akron.

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And my prayer for you is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three aspects of the Holy Trinity, encircle you in God’s love this week and always.

+Bishop Abraham Allende