A Rusty Spare

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I had a flat tire yesterday. Not that uncommon, I suppose. Most of us who drive a vehicle on any sort will at some point run over a nail, hit a pothole, or simply wear out our tires to the point where they refuse to hold air anymore. The problem for me yesterday was that even with the help of the CAA service, we couldn’t get the spare tire to drop down. The release mechanism had rusted in place – and from the looks of it, the spare tire was rusted, too. So, the CAA driver added some compressed air and the tire held it long enough for me to make it to a repair shop a couple kilometers up the road. Other than a little reordering of my schedule, the flat tire really did not disrupt my day. The rusted release mechanism got me thinking, though.

On a personal note, I have friends – good friends – whom I would assume would be there for me in the midst of any emergency. Yet, more often than not, I take them for granted. I simply assume everything is good. I don’t call or text or email with any regularity. A few of us get together once a year for a “guys weekend” but throughout the year, the contact is rather infrequent. I found myself wondering if I am neglecting them like I’ve neglected my spare tire. I simply assume they’ll be there – and that they’re doing well. It wasn’t a heavy thought, or a necessarily guilt-inducing thought. Rather, I recognized that the friendships I value, and in many ways, the friendships that I count on, need more attention than what I have given them during this past year. It’s still January, so perhaps the flat tire prompted me to start a belated New Year’s resolution to be me more attentive to my friends, taking the initiative to check in with them and walk alongside them throughout the year.

But, I also found myself wondering about our Church’s mission statement. We have this beautiful mission statement that expresses a common commitment that we exist to serve our community. The challenge is that we too often take that statement for granted. We have been out of the habits of listening to our neighbours, of spending time with them, of inviting them over, of simply being present in our neighborhood. When a situation comes up where our voice and our engagement is needed, like the recent proposal to establish a casino in downtown Hamilton, we struggle with what it means for us to serve our neighbors, to work for the “renewal of the city and the world”.

I did not spend much time thinking about the casino proposal itself, which I am opposed to as are many I have spoken to within our Church, but about our hesitancy and difficulty in responding to this situation. We have been slow to engage this conversation in our community. It’s as if the release mechanism that would allow us to access our collective resources has become rusty.

In some ways this situation has left me wondering if our mission statement has been tucked away like a spare tire. We’re pretty certain it’s there and in working condition. We count on it making a difference when we need it. But instead of being part of the gps that guides our direction, or the engine that moves us, or some other part of the car that we rely on daily, we’ve tucked it away under the backside of the vehicle: out of sight and mostly out of mind. And now, when our community faces a significant situation that could negatively impact those who are poor and marginalized in our neighborhood, we’re not quite sure how to respond. It’s as if our mission statement has become rusty from neglect and we’re left scratching our heads as to what to do now.

Again, it’s not been so much of guilt-inducing thought as a wondering about what to do now. How do we move forward from here? How do we bring our mission of renewing the city to the forefront of how we live as a community? If indeed we have neglected our mission and have allowed our mission statement to rust, what do we do to clean it up and start engaging it again? I suppose it starts with remembering what our mission statement says and then asking questions about how that will shape our priorities, decisions, and daily rhythms as a community called to be God’s people in this place at this time. Like my flat tire situation yesterday, we’re not in a crisis – yet. But it’s a good reminder that our mission is intended to make a difference. It’s not meant to simply be filed away.

Our mission – our common commitment as God’s people, wrapped up within the story of God’s grace in Jesus Christ as it unfolds in our neighborhood at this time – is supposed to be a living expression of who we are and who we are becoming. And since it is still early in the year, perhaps this can serve as a New Year’s resolution of sorts – to live into our mission statement and, in doing so, to walk alongside our neighbors in more deliberate and consistent ways throughout this year. Perhaps the place to start is to put our mission statement in front of us again and invite us to consider together: “If this is who we are and who we are in the process of becoming, what will it look like for us to exist for our community in a way that brings the Father glory?”

We are a missional church that exists to serve our community:
         embracing one another in love,
         forming authentic disciples of Jesus, and
         being sent by the Spirit
                     to renew our city and the world—
all for the Father’s glory.

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