Our Northeastern Ohio Synod has been gathering in their respective conferences in recent weeks. Just so we’re on the same page, Divinity is a proud part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which helps not just with standard-American-religion-operating-procedure denomination affiliation and overall organizing church structure, but pooling resources together for more effective ministry to be done with ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Response, Young Adults in Global Mission, etc. Within the ELCA, there are 65 (mostly geographical) synods. Within those synods, there are conferences, of which we are part of the Northwestern Conference. This allows for not only the respective clergy to meet on various topics, but also for lay involvement, working with other nearby faith communities (Bethel, Middleburg Heights; Good Soil, Rocky River; Christ, Avon Lake; First, Lorain; St. Matthew, Medina; to name a few).

So, this past Sunday, May 5, Douglas Doza, Sean Klemme, Matthew Smith, and myself gathered with other nearby ELCA-ers at Bethesda on the Bay Lutheran Church (Bay Village) to hear from our Synod staff about something called the Isaiah 43 Project; with a focus on the 19th verse: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” The conversations around the many tables (with pastors doing so with each other and lay members intermixed separately) weren’t necessarily anything “new.” The wider church and individual congregations and countless more children of God personally have seen this coming: a new thing is springing forth for the Zions and the Trinitys and the Emmanuels and the Bethanys and the Divinitys, too.

And yes, the usual joke was made about us Lutherans, how much we crave and yearn for change. However, the helpful reminder was made from our Synod staff that we mainline Protestants aren’t the only ones struggling with the changing times. For instance, as much as numerous sibling faith communities struggle finding a pastor, the workforce as a whole is struggling to find who’s going to fill the tried-and-true shoes of the Baby Boomers, including in the medical and legal and so many other fields. No, we Lutherans do not adore everything not staying the same since Luther in the 1500’s or from when the Germans arrived on these shores centuries later or, at least, since the post-World War II denomination glory days. We don’t mind a few advancements in morality and technology, for instance, but the truth is, most human beings don’t long for the constancy of the different.

Nevertheless, it may be a helpful Gospel reminder for earlier in Isaiah 43:

But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 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.

Yes, it may seem like we’re about to enter rather overwhelming waters and fires, wondering if we and or the standard-American-religion-operating-procedure will survive. It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to be scared. But we won’t be going through any of those understandable feelings alone. There are All Saintses and Living Words and St. Lukeses and Graces and Salems and many, many more, who don’t want to go through this alone either. They want to be here not just for their fellow congregation members, but for other ELCAers and other children of God as well. It’s as if we’re wired that way or something: to be the actual embodiment of a body of Christ who will connect and work with each other to endure and persevere through whatever the world may throw at us. Perhaps it’s all springing forth not with fear and intimidation, but with hope and Resurrection new life. Amen (so let it be)!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

For a brief background about the Isaiah 43 Project, please visit:
https://www.neos-elca.org/project-isaiah-43.html