Our Savior’s and Atonement
“Pastor’s Ponderings” From the October Atonement Chimes Call
Sometimes when people get married, it is said that it is a match made in Heaven. I’m not entirely sure God controls things to that degree… we are creatures of free will, but it is true that God gives us opportunities for blessing by giving us opportunities to be a blessing one to another. Marriage is perhaps the most substantial way that God blesses us by way of another person. We make our choices and God uses our choices to bless us with God’s love through the life and gifts of the one we have chosen.
As Atonement and Our Savior’s come together it seems very much like a marriage… and this one truly made in Heaven. God planted each congregation in overlapping neighborhoods decades ago. God has given to each a unique personality, ministry and mission. God has called us together in joint mission in the past… the ELCA… the Racine Cluster… a pastoral sharing venture on a couple of occasions… FaithWorks. Now, it appears, that we are called to something more significant. This marriage is our choice, finally, but it has become clear that this is the path that God is calling us to follow… A match, quite literally, made in Heaven.
That said, this is something of an arranged marriage. The good news is that arranged marriages have better success rates than those chosen by the participants! The reason is love… not passion, but the love of God, the love which calls people to be committed to one another, “for better for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.” This love gives itself away, it sacrifices itself for the well being of the other. This is a holy love, which forgives, and forgives and forgives again. This is the love that we need to all display in order to make something new. This is a love we choose with our minds, not our hearts.
Why get married? The reason is always mission. When a couple gets married, the mission is often companionship, having children and creating family, financial stability, and mutual support. These, and many more, are the blessings that God often conveys through marriage. The reason for the marriage between Our Savior’s and Atonement is similarly mission, God’s mission. We come together so that each congregation might give and receive blessing to each other and to the world. We come together because we are stronger together than we are apart.
But, you might ask, we have been independent for so long… why do this now? Why get married? Because the world is changing, the church is changing. God is calling us to shift the infrastructure that we had for one that better suits our needs today.
In the middle of the last century, both of our churches made significant changes. Our Savior’s moved to a new and bigger facility. Atonement added educational units. God called the people of 50-60 years ago in new directions. God worked in powerful ways through both of our congregations. God continues to work in powerful ways through God’s Church, perhaps more powerfully than ever, but we are clearly smaller, and need to become something new, while retaining the heart of the old. Why marry? For love… the love of God. God is in this, and we are God’s children.
Good marriages are not the absorption of one household into another. When a couple comes together, life changes for both people, and changes significantly. The congregations of Our Savior’s and Atonement both bring significant resources to this marriage. Each congregation has wonderful leaders that have guided their individual congregations for many years. Each congregation has members with significant gifts for the sake of God’s Church and for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Each congregation has substantial mission and ministry. Each congregation has a substantial building and property. Neither congregation comes to the marriage as anything other than equal partners.
Which is why it is of tremendous importance to realize that together, like in any good marriage, we must create something new. A new way of being church. As we come together, we need to mutually decide how we want to live and be God’s Church. We will do that by accessing the gifts that God has given us, accessing what we currently are each doing, and prayerfully… prayerfully,,, seeking where God would have us go. (Not a bad idea in any marriage, frankly.)