Last Sunday, Caryl Benner did a beautiful job of introducing the thoughtful, thorough process we have entered to discern where God is leading Shepherd of the Valley in the near future.
It involves an initial phase of interviewing our congregation, which will stretch into June, and mining the responses to identify what is most dear and important to us as a congregation.
This will be followed by a second phase of meeting, listening to, and praying for our neighbors.
Many of you have been or will be contacted to schedule a one-on-one interview.
If you are not contacted by the end of May but want to be interviewed, please let the office know so that we can make sure you get included.
The full process, designed and facilitated by Pastor Marj Funk-Pihl, aims to help congregations learn to live in love with God, one another, and their neighbors.
It's called Living the Resurrection.
This title suggests a deep, beautiful truth that Christians sometimes seem to miss: that the
resurrection is something we live now, not just something that happened to Jesus once upon a time.
Paul called him the first fruits of those who have died, not the final harvest.
As first fruits, Christ is an offering—God's offering to us.
God hands us Christ's new, risen life and invites us to share it, before we die as well as after.
See, I am making all things new – Jesus is just the prototype.
Resurrection is God's gift and strategy for the whole shooting match, all of creation, including you and your cat and your stock broker and the entirety of human history and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.
But what exactly is resurrection?
The New Testament is notorious for not defining the undefinable, so we have a better handle on what resurrection is not than on what exactly it is.
Resurrection is not resuscitation.
Jesus died, and then he was dead.
He was not passed out, not in a coma, not sort of dead or mostly dead; he was dead.
A while later, he was somehow alive again, and different.
His closest companions didn't recognize him at first.
He had changed.
Yet he was still the same guy—with the same scars.
So living the resurrection means that we will be different, and we will be the same.
We will not lose the essence of who we are as a congregation; that will be refined and enhanced.
It will look different, and feel different, but we will not lose our identity or become
Resurrection is not replacement.
As Eugene Boring points out, God does not make all new things, but all things new.
Which begs another question: what's new?
In Greek, there are two possibilities, neos and kainos.
Neos is brand new, and its not in any of today's readings.
Kainos is new again, renewed, renovated, refurbished.
The new commandment is really just an old commandment made new again.
The new heaven is the old heaven, resurrected.
The new earth is the one we're on now, renewed.
When I stand at the altar and repeat Christ's words over the bread and wine, the new covenant is the old one with fresh life in its lungs.
God made that covenant with Israel, and God will keep it, not throw it away.
God resurrects it, along with the other all wondrous things God has made and makes new.
So when the Living the Resurrection process ripens into a new direction, our eyes may not
recognize us at first.
We will be doing some different things with different priorities.
We will be loving, welcoming, serving, learning from, and engaging with neighbors we do not currently know.
I suspect that some ministries will be discontinued, lying either dormant or dead.
Other ministries will be started or significantly changed.
Certain Lutherans might express polite misgivings, or lose their minds, at so much change that will feel like loss.
But God loses nothing.
God doesn't throw anything away—God saves it all, which is to say, God makes all
So there's a lot we don't know yet.
We don't know where this process will lead us or what will come of it.
We don't know what you or our neighbors will tell us, or what God will inspire us to propose
with that feedback.
We don't know what priorities and plans will emerge.
Here's what we do know: we will still have scars.
The wounds and the wisdom of our past will endure.
We will look different, but in every way that matters to God, we will be the same.
We will be renewed.
We will be confused, and inspired, and frustrated, and surprised.
We will make mistakes and friends.
We will be called to receive love and commanded to share love—love for God, for one another, and for all beings and all things around us.
We will be sent, anew and still, to show the world with our lives and stories who God is: the one who made and cares for all things enough to save and resurrect them all.
The one who will be with us, and has been with us, through it all.
The one who made the universe and chooses to make a home with us.
See, the home of God is among mortals... I guess because immortals never get to live the