col·lab·o·ra·tion

col·lab·o·ra·tion

kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n

noun - the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

 

       Our cooperative journey has taken us significantly down the path. We've been working closely together with Our Savior's Lutheran Church for seven months now. We've worshipped together, done service together as God's Work, Our Hands, we've shared committee work and musicians, the youth groups and confirmation classes are together, the Women's Ministry groups have shared events, and we're enjoying Wednesday night CONNECTIONS together. On most fronts, collaboration has been an opportunity. Now we're preparing for a First Lutheran congregational conversation where we'll share thoughts, questions and concerns about this partnership. The Common Purpose Relationship Task Force (CPR) is prepared to communicate their ideas about further structure to engage more congregational members in the process of working together.  As unusual, or unfamiliar, or cumbersome as this partnership may seem to some - I think we're "being the church." We are practicing ecclesiology. This word comes from the Greek word ek-kle-sia, which means "a people called" and "the visible assembly." We have heard it said, albeit many times, "the church is not a building."  It is a people gathered into community in response to God's call in Jesus Christ. The church belongs to and owes its existence to God and not to us. God has created and claimed the church for God's purposes.

 

Just think - even though we're celebrating 150 years of our beloved First Lutheran (and we should give great thanks and celebration for that) the church has existed prior to any of its members or participants. It is not simply a consumer-driven entity that exists to meet the religious needs of those who come to it. Don't get me wrong, churches do meet people's needs, of course, but we are called to more than that.  At least potentially, churches transform people by drawing them into a larger purpose and identity.  "Once you were not a people," writes Peter, "but now you are God's people" (1 Peter 2:10).

 

Several of the most prominent metaphors for the church in scripture refer to what I'm getting at: People of God, Body of Christ, and Temple of the Spirit - each correlates, in some measure, with one of the three persons of the triune God. Like God, who is communal, the three in one, Christian life is communal - lived together. It is not lived in isolation or housed separately. It seems that biblical story points to God's clear intention to create a people to serve God and to serve the world that God cares so deeply about. All three of these metaphors for church depict Christian life as being part of a people and community…together. Over the years, individual churches, First included, have developed their own structures, systems, and rituals for governance and continuity. This has been quite important, as these structures have sustained common life and work. But such structures are, in the end, provisional. In Paul's words, they are "clay jars," not to be confused with the "extraordinary power that belongs to God" (2 Cor.4:7).

 

So in the midst of First Lutheran and Our Savior's working together as a people and community - as we imagine this new way of being the church, I know it will be both exciting and very scary. It will be both transformative and full of grief. But I trust that this is what God has created us to be. The church, then, is not simply whatever we want it to be or what we choose to make of it. The church is what God makes, and is making of us.   -Pastor Amy