Life, as the saying goes, is full of challenges. So is doing ministry and publishing a denominational magazine. Consider a few of the issues before the church and in this issue of The Lutheran.
Early in February the Lutheran World Federation said it was “deeply concerned” about the financial situation facing its Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority owes $24.4 million for patients it referred to the hospital, with no payments made in 2013. If the money had been received, the LWF said the hospital would have a cash surplus instead of a financial crisis.
No one takes the situation on the Mount of Olives more seriously than Mark B. Brown, an ELCA pastor who administers the storied location for the LWF. Augusta Victoria is the cornerstone of the Palestinian health system, including specialized treatment at its cancer, diabetes and pediatric centers. Brown, the pride of Streator, Ill., keeps the mount overlooking Jerusalem together for all of us in the ELCA since the denomination is a LWF member. Pray for him and the work on the Mount of Olives.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land continues to keep the faith in the face of political and sectarian turmoil across the Middle East. Christians still emigrate from the area, but thousands upon thousands remain. As Bishop Munib Younan asked fervently some years ago of me and other guests at an ELCJHL facility in Bethlehem: “Don’t forget about us.” Never.
• The reflection on the imposition of ashes at the start of Lent (page 23) leaps from the page thanks to the photo of a child with a smudged cross on his forehead. Even children are dust. Sobering, yes, yet they enjoy the same promise of life as do adults.
• The “Lutheran appreciation” for Pope Francis (page 40) may strike some as odd for a Lutheran magazine. The view offered is one about the man and his actions—not the Roman Catholic Church—in the first year of his papacy. Let us rejoice in what binds us, rather than rant about what divides us.
• The theological article on the future of the church (page 14) sees a worldview change of “stop building and hoping they will come and instead galvanize our resources and energy around a focus on the call to go.” A worthy switch, indeed.
• Just as a preacher can’t cover everything every Sunday, neither can a columnist. Peter W. Marty’s “Who is saved?” (page 3) should be read in connection with his February column “Sorting out heaven and hell” (page 3). They are fully consistent. As one editor said, “I think he’s correct that one of our besetting sins is our tendency to restrict the love of God to ourselves and our group, however large we make the in-group.”
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers