My wife, Gay, has become a quilter. Shortly after arriving in Kentucky, she became involved with a group of women in a ministry of the Church called “Cross Quilts.” They gather weekly in the home of a member and make quilts to give to veterans, homeless persons, and children who are Baptized at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Working together adds something to their mission.
She told me about an experience she had recently while shopping for fabric for one of her quilts. As she was walking through the fabric store, a young woman stopped her and asked for help in selecting some ribbon for a project she was working on. Gay was intrigued that this complete stranger would ask for her opinion and curious to see where this encounter might lead. The young woman explained the project to Gay and they discussed the ways in which the ribbon would be used with different fabrics. At some point, she made her decision, thanked Gay, and took the ribbon to the cashier.
What fascinated me about this story is the openness to collaboration between these two women, who had never met before and will probably never meet again. I’ve seen a lot of that since coming to Kentucky, such as the man I wrote about last week who helped me with my shopping cart. I’ve seen a spirit of collaboration in the churches, in the communities, in circles of friends, and among complete strangers.
I don’t know if it is primarily a cultural phenomenon or if it’s in the water or the air we breathe here in the Bluegrass, but people here seem to value each other’s opinions and appreciate opportunities to work together toward some purpose. Perhaps that is why economists point out “entrepreneurial support” as an attractive economic feature of the Lexington area. Entrepreneurs know the wonder of collaboration in bringing together assets in new ways to develop new things.
There are parallels with the Christian mission. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he worked collaboratively with his disciples and others to open hearts and minds to the new thing God was bringing about. He was critical of those who were locked into one way of doing things and who resistant to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. But to those who were willing to enter into a trusting relationship with him and each other the way to abundant life.
In her sermon today, during a celebration of The Holy Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral here in Lexington, Dean Carol Wade told us that she has established commissions to explore various aspects of the Cathedral’s life and witness. I was fascinated to hear her say that one of those commissions is “The Entrepreneurs Commission.” She described their role as “discovering resources for the increase of ministries.” What a great concept! What an expression of a theology of abundance!
God has provided all the resources we need to do what God is calling us to do. Our job is to open our eyes to see God’s hand at work around us to discover those resources and employ them in new ways in the service of the Gospel.
At the top of the list of resources is people who share a love of Jesus Christ. Christianity has been a collaborative and entrepreneurial enterprise from the beginning. Despite tendencies of the culture to cast Christianity in terms of a private relationship between the believer and Jesus, authentic Christianity is always corporate and collaborative at the core.
A good example is Matthew 18:19-20 where Jesus says, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” The Greek word for agree in this passage of scripture is συμφωνία, meaning "agreement or concord of sound", "concert of vocal or instrumental music", from σύμφωνος, "harmonious" (Oxford English Dictionary). It is also the origin of the word symphony.
Is it any wonder that Christians sing when we gather? When we live and work collaboratively in Christ’s mission, we make beautiful music that expresses our life in Christ.