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Lutheran-Catholic Evening of Repentance

On April 4, 2017, an "Evening of Repentance" was held in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, and the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. This service, commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, was held in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall.

Please click below to download Bishop Kurt Kusserow's sermon:

Bishop Kusserow's Sermon from Evening of Repentance Bishop Kusserow's Sermon from Evening of Repentance (88 KB)

Please check back later for some photographs from the event, or visit the synod's Facebook page: SWPA Lutheran Synod.

June, 2017 Reflections from the Bishop

Stewards of the Gospel

Among our favorite Bible stories of stewardship, the life and ministry of Moses seldom appears, while the Parable of the Talents likely leads the list. Found in both Matthew (25:14-30) and Luke (19:11-27), the story of how each servant managed a different amount of the master’s money moves quickly and dramatically. It’s a comic strip in five panels. It’s a 30-second ad on TV. It’s Instagram. Click – view – done.

In notable contrast to this, the story of Moses takes up all 40 chapters of the book of Exodus – and the 27 chapters of the book of Leviticus, and the 36 chapters of the book of Numbers. And the 34 chapters of the book of Deuteronomy! Reading through this slow, extended narrative that follows the life of Moses from birth to death, we receive a most valuable education in the nature of stewardship, which is the vocation of tending something that belongs to someone else.

To begin with, we learn that the vocation of stewardship is not so much chosen as it is given. This is true in the Parable of the Talents, but in Moses’ story we can see more clearly how the vocation of stewardship was given to him by virtue of his remarkable birth and childhood. Born to Hebrews, raised in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses was given a life situation he did not choose, but which prepared him to be a steward of the people of God as they moved from their slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land.

We also see that the object of stewardship is non-negotiable. In the Parable of the Talents, each servant was given a certain amount of money without any discussion. In the rapid-fire context of the parable, we may miss this point. But in Moses’ story this reality lies open for us to see very plainly. Moses was called to steward God’s people, just as they were. He was not invited to take the best 10,000 Hebrew slaves to see what he could make of them. No, he was given charge of the whole lot of them – plus a “mixed crowd” of goodness-knows-who that joined the Israelites on the journey even though that group of people seems not to have been mentioned in the original contract! (Exodus 12:38)

Finally, in Moses story, we find the solemn awareness that stewards do eventually relinquish what had been placed in their hands for a while. This point is easily lost in following the fortunes of the one-dimensional, cartoon caricatures who populate the Parable of the Talents. They seem to end the story still in possession of the talents they had been given. A more careful reading notes that the master gives them only more weighty “charges,” not possessions. In the story of Moses, this point is made poignantly clear, when his “charges” prepare to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land without him.

Deuteronomy records the scene, filled with a strangely lovely pathos, in which Moses climbs Mt. Nebo, looks far away into every corner of the Promised Land he will not enter, then dies at the Lord’s command, and is buried in a valley in Moab. The location of his tomb is not known. After 30 days of mourning, the people of God move on, across the Jordan, and into the Promised Land.

We do well to remember the narrative of Moses as we gather for our Synod Assembly under the theme, “Stewards of the Gospel.” We dare not assume that we have chosen this vocation, or that we can negotiate to our liking which parts of the Gospel we may wish to select as our duty to tend. Rather, in a mystery as deep as the circumstances of our own birth and life experiences, we answer the call and join the journey.

Along the way, as Moses did, we may find the vocation of stewardship too much to bear alone (Numbers 11:10-15). At other times we may find ourselves sticking our necks out to fulfill our charge (Exodus 32:7-14). We will likely find that tending the Gospel changes us in ways we could not have imagined, just as Moses’ face shone after speaking with God in the tabernacle (Exodus 34:29-35). But at the end of the journey, just as Moses did, we must open our hands and return that which was trusted to our care for a time.

In our story, that moment takes these familiar forms:
• the pastor who returns the signs of Word and Sacrament to the congregation at the time of leaving for another call,
• the youth leader who watches kids grow up and move on in their lives, now out of the youth group’s direct care and guidance,
• the committee chair who terms out of office just when the ministry begins to take shape and flourish,
• former council members who accept the decisions of the new council to change “how we’ve always done it.”

In the time that God has given us, and in all the places to which God leads us, we are called to steward the Gospel. May God give us the will, the strength and the compassion to serve faithfully.

With you in Christ,

+Kurt F. Kusserow, Bishop 

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