I’m proud of the beautiful, life-affirming steps Crossroads and St. Paul’s continue to make. It’s exciting to see new ministry come alive in Crossroads building, in early meetings of the executive committees being together, in the call process proceeding, and in our preparations for more and more life together.
Wow…this is a lot for just a couple of months of intentional life together. These are moments to take some deep breaths around and celebrate. These are also times to dig deeply into this new beginning and examine what is taking shape. One of the things that I said throughout the fall in preparations for these days is that our work is just beginning. I definitely see this here and now. And I am profoundly excited to see the vision of this partnership becoming enfleshed.
Some of the hardest work of any deepening relationship is that this deepening calls for care around how we treat one another and the world around us. In our scriptures in worship in January and February, we have read Paul’s letters to the early church in Corinth. These passages show us how God calls us to relate to one another. In short, Paul tells the church, both then and now, that we are in this life of faith together for the sake of Jesus’ work in the world. In essence, none of what we do is only about us. It’s also about how we can be the way God gets things done in the world for the sake of the community around us.
In our partnership we will see ways that St. Paul’s and Crossroads do things that don’t make sense to one another, and we will also learn that the other congregation has some gifts to share that contribute to the betterment of the whole. These learnings happen at the individual level as well. In our discovering these things, and in the ways we will stumble every now and then, I ask you to remember that we are all on the same team in this new life together.
Together, we are called to shine God’s grace and good news into the lives of our nearest neighbors, including one another. This is the main goal of our individual lives of faith, and the main goal of our collective lives of faith, as two congregations and as one united partnership. We are all in this together, for the sake of our neighbors, so that God’s life changing work can impact us and the world around us.
Perhaps because it’s February, I’m thinking about these things through the lens of love. Not the sentimental romantic love of Valentine’s Day. Rather, I think about faith, and our partnerships with one another, through the lens of God’s love for you and for me and for the entire world. We have an enormous gift as these two churches to witness the power of love as revealed in and through Jesus to the world. The power of God’s love calls us to see one another through this lens of love.
Later in February, as we continue to read about Paul’s words to the Corinthian church, we will hear a scripture that is often read at weddings. Love is patient and kind, not arrogant, boastful or rude. Love builds up and does not tear down. With the love of Jesus as our model, I invite you to build one another up and support one another with patience and kindness. Give one another the benefit of believing each other’s best intentions. In the spirit of God’s love for the whole world, let us use our partnership as a way and a place to amplify Jesus’ love for one another and all of our neighbors.
God’s love is more than a feeling. God’s love is action. This love is meant to be shared and expressed and witnessed to in your life, in my life, and in our life together. God’s love is expressed in our interactions with those we live with, and work with, and go to school with, and see when we run our everyday errands. Living God’s love is an intentional choice we make, and I want us to make that intentional choice in this partnership, and in our everyday lives.
Maybe what I’m trying to say is simply this: in the midst of this moment in St. Paul’s and Crossroads lives I believe God’s love calls us to treat one another well. This treating one another well is hard work, especially as we embark on something new. Sometimes the phrase “treating one another well” is too nebulous for me. When this is true, I return again and again to a simple 3 word phrase I learned many years ago…”interact with respect.”
I invite you to interact with respect…respect for one another; respect for our neighbors outside of the church; respect for this new life together; and, most importantly, respect for our God of love!