Fashionably late arrivals to God’s mission
From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Last weekend my household celebrated the 21st birthday of our triplets. There was a party at our place on the Saturday starting in the late afternoon and heading into the night. Three of the party goers arrived pretty close to the start time, while others came as the party progressed.
The experience with the three on-time-arrivals is something you’ve probably seen countless times. There is a slight awkwardness surrounding the first to arrive. It was experienced by us as hosts and by them as invited guests. It is the awkwardness of how to get the party started when we are few in number and waiting on others to arrive.
It was a different story for those who arrived later in the party. When they turned up the party was in full swing. There was music, lots of conversations, groups in different parts of the house, and energy. It was easy for them to slip into the house and into what was already happening.
With these different experiences for the first to arrive compared with those arriving later, you can well understand the motivation to arrive fashionably late!
Changing tack now … as we think about mission, we are always arriving fashionably late. What I mean by this is that we are not the first arrivals who need to get the mission started. Rather, God is the first arrival who has already got started in God’s mission. We are the late arrivals who slip in to join what is already happening.
This same understanding was shared during the March 19 kick off to the 2022 Presbytery Mission Planning process. In response to hearing many stories from one another about a time of seeing God clearly at work in congregations, faith communities and agencies across our Presbytery, the comment was made that it is good to start with stories like this. It is better to start with asking “where have you seen God act in mission” than asking “what is your mission” because it lifts our eyes from ourselves to where God is acting, and it helps us understand that in mission we are building on what God is doing, rather than starting from scratch. Again, we are the late arrivals who slip in to join in what God is already doing in God’s mission.
The Mission Shaped Ministry course that our Synod and Presbytery offer also affirms this understanding. It teaches that “Mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in”. It goes on to say: “This statement unfolds the truth that God is already at work in and beyond the life of the church in every situation. We are partners with God and engaging in a process which is already happening in the life of an individual or a community … God invites us to be co-workers”.
As fashionably late arrivals to God’s mission, let’s slip into what God is already doing.