These past few weeks I have noticed a trend in the conversations I've had with friends and neighbors. A sense of despair hangs in the air as we talk about the hurricanes, fires, shootings, dysfunction in our nation's capitol, even the politics that have impacted the N.F.L. Speaking of football, I have this image of the late Vince Lombardi stalking the sideline in a game, yelling out to his team who apparently aren't doing very well, and shouting, "What the hell's going on out there!?"
It is indeed a time when many folks are asking that same question.
And yet. I'm reminded there have been times such as these in which the people of the Bible faced uncertainty, raising doubts about their faith and their future. Exile. Good Friday. Persecution. The story of Job.
And through it all another theme emerges. One of hope, assurance, courage. God never gives up on us. Even when we throughly mess things up. And God finds so many different ways to remind us how to be the people God intended us to be.
Even ways that don't seem that obvious, but are right in front of us. If we just take the time to think about them.
Take geese, for example. This time of year I love watching them make their way South. Instinctively. Faithfully. Have you ever thought about how geese travel? Dr. Robert McNeisch did. He was a science teacher in the Baltimore area. He was also a man of faith. He saw in geese a metaphor for human living, how God wanted us to live. Through good times and bad. How we might move from despair to hope. And he shared his thoughts in a sermon he gave at his church in 1972. Maybe you've heard this before, but like a lot of things we've heard before we sometimes need to be reminded of them once in a while.
This is what he shared.
Geese fly in a V formation, right? Well it turns out that by flapping their wings the leaders create an uplift for the followers, and their range of flight is extended by a whopping 71%. We were meant to work together, and working together makes things easier for all.
If one goose falls out of the formation they soon realize how much more work they are doing to get where they are going. And they join back in with the group. The sensibility of geese can teach us about the value of community. Even the Lone Ranger had a partner.
When the lead geese tire they move to the back so others can take their turn at lifting cup the group. Leadership is a shared activity. A shared responsibility.
If a goose is injured or wounded or shot down, two others follow their fellow member down and stay with them as protection until he or she either flies again or dies. Then they continue their journey with another flock or catch up with their own. You see, we're all in this life's journey together. No one should be left alone. Or left out.
Finally, the geese in the back of the formation constantly honk encouragement so that the leaders up front maintain their speed. They honk encouragement. We need to make sure our honking is encouraging, not something else.
So there it is. Lessons we can learn from geese. Who knew?!
Well, now you know. And now it's up to you. Let's get out there and fly! Honk, honk!