Recently, I watched Moana with my children and was fascinated by the concept of wayfinding. Before maps, sextants and compasses could guide massive European ships across the ocean; Polynesians used stars, currents, ocean swells and birds to guide relatively tiny double canoes across the ocean. By observing where they came from, where they were, and the stars, the Polynesians were able to use these double canoes to keep close to the water to be aware of their environment to explore unknown islands. This image of wayfinding is important as we move forward into uncharted territory. How do we move forward?
First, we must pay careful attention to where we have come from. Wayfinding looks back to see where we came from. Similarly, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob leads us step by step, so we must remember how God has led us in the past (e.g. Deut 7:18; 8:2; 9:7) as we move into the future. The story of Israel is our story, and we must pay attention to where He has brought us. Also we observe how God has led us in our more immediate past. Our Anniversary Celebration and Commissioning collectively recalled the past in concrete and specific ways. More recently this Advent season demonstrated how we can build on some of the rich traditions of our past while creatively experimenting with new forms (spoken word, video, songs) as we engaged the wonder of Christmas. Together, we are encountering Jesus in powerful ways.
Also, we must pay attention to where we are at. Wayfinding pays careful attention to ocean currents and the motion of the birds; the double canoe keeps its inhabitants close to the surface of the water to know what is going on. Similarly, leadership must always pay careful attention to what is going on. Moving into the future does not disregard the realities of the present but explores what God is birthing through them. Recently, my reflection on the neutral zone was an attempt to articulate the currents that are at work in and around our church. And we must be prayerfully aware of the work that God is doing around us. The life of faith grows as we “look intently” (cf. Acts 3:3) at people around us and join what God is doing in their midst. What is God doing around us? This Saturday our Governing Board and some leaders meet to explore this question as well.
Finally, we must look to where we are headed. Wayfinding looked to the stars which would clearly orient their latitude for their journey. We become oriented by looking to Jesus Christ, our ultimate North Star, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). Our vision statement is similarly an orienting document of our calling in “Forming a people to glorify Christ everywhere.” This spells out the three basic areas of our calling in spiritual formation (“forming a people in Christ”), worship (“to glorify him”) and mission (“everywhere”). What does this work look like in our changing culture today? We must listen and obey the promptings of God’s Spirit as He moves us forward.
The key to Jesus’ ministry was that he did “only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19). May we also do only what we see our Father doing. This is true personally, corporately in our families and as a church. What is He birthing in our midst? What is He doing? May our activity grow out of what we see Him doing in our midst. And may He receive all the glory.