The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Last week I wrote ‘You don’t come home all jolly and happy from a visit of battlefields …’ and you might be expecting me to begin similarly having just come home the ELCE’s synodical convention! That’s the caricature often isn’t it? That church meetings are long and tedious and synodical conventions – at any level – are plague by politics. Ok, there may be some truth there but it is largely a caricature here because, in my experience, generally ELCE conventions are characterised by a spirit of fellowship and wanting to work together. That’s not to say that some years haven’t had their issues, personalities, controversial moments, and words that shouldn’t have been said but it is to say that my experience of ELCE Synodical Conventions is positive.

I thank Sara for attending the convention as Ascension’s lay delegate – reading material fast, asking pertinent questions, and suffering abandonment as her pastor was busy chairing sessions of synod and attending to various tasks. She will give her report after the service. There is also an ELCE Synod Report available that has gone out to all congregations.

Ascension’s resolution regarding changing our saying of the Nicene Creed to ‘for us and for our salvation’ was forwarded by the convention to the Barnes Conference (the ELCE’s Pastoral Conference) for comment. This matter will return to the synodical convention in 2018. This was procedural not political – the synod was pushed for time – but having the resolution in the Supplementary Book of Reports did have an interesting effect in that people did speak to me about it (in favour and less so) so I think we can safely say that this topic is much more on the ELCE’s landscape than before.

But what I’d like to share with you about this year’s ELCE Synodical Convention was the last session. As a small church body – 14 congregations – 5 missions – there is an opportunity for each congregation and mission to share a little of what has been going on in the past year. This year these brief presentations were amazing in my view. We are all different – different contexts, histories, strengths and weaknesses – and, as we said at our recent congregational meeting, ELCE resources are being stretched more and more. You might think there would be despondency … and in some years reports could be of the ‘half empty’ – Eeyore (Winnie-thePooh) variety … but not this year. I was impressed with report after report – some congregations are doing it tough, no one is on ‘easy street’ – but this year every congregation reported highs and lows and a confidence that Jesus is with his people – that God would not abandon them – and that they were going forward into 2018 with determination – even courage – trusting God. This was no Pollyanna-ish view of things but a realistic, no illusions, not easy, not sure of the future view – and yet there was such a confidence in report after report that I found myself grinning in amazement. I was impressed with the spirit and hope displayed when often there was seemingly no reason. But surely that’s what faith does? Give you a perspective that others can’t see – and you can’t see! – but you trust for some reason and live according to it.

And in this Reformation 500 year what got me was seeing the Reformation in front me – sin to