Between the ages of five and ten, I lived in Minnesota. I have delightful memories of that age, and of the place. Minnesota is full of good people, with a smart wit, and a lot of faith. I know that much of my own faith began fermenting there, at the very welcoming and loving St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
The church itself began in an elementary school, and that is where we first became members. The school was the same one that I attended, and in that regard, it all seemed very “Little House on the Prairie,” except the building was much more modern. Each Sunday, we’d arrive to the same place we went every day of the week, except we’d be dressed in our finest. And then we’d file into the lunch room, which no longer had long tables and benches for children, but was lined with chairs and a center aisle for the purpose of having church.
What I remember from those first church experiences was wonder, love, and happiness. Pastor Rod was full of life and had a true gift of presenting messages that held delectable layers of nuance. Certainly the children understood the sermons at one level, and the adults garnered different tidbits that would have been relevant to their life at another layer. One of my favorite sermons ever was about migratory birds, and it is a sermon that I think about to this day.
For background, I love birds. In that same house in Minnesota, my family used to hand raise birds. This was a “pet” project of my Dad, and in our basement we housed several breeding pairs, along with room for the babies. When the babies were small, my parents or my sister and I would hand feed them birds every two hours, around the clock. This made them quite tame and friendly, and they made wonderful pets. It was definitely an interesting business to be around and learn about growing up.
On one Sunday, Pastor Rod spoke about the amazing trip that migratory birds make every year. They travel from one spot to another, year after year, going thousands of miles, usually so that they can mate. And one of the things that is simply amazing is how the birds manage to make the journey. How do they have the stamina to go the distance?
Pastor Rod went on to say that most birds fly in groups in the sky, and when they’re
traveling, they form a giant V. You’ve seen it, I imagine. One bird out in front, with equal numbers of birds following along on each side. They do this because the front bird is cutting through the air, and the ones behind him are drafting, like race cars. The lead bird does the hardest part of the job, and when he’s tired, he drops behind, to the very back where he can rest. In turn, another bird takes the lead. It’s a part of the dance of nature.
As a kid, I was fascinated by this. There was a reason why the birds flew in that distinctive pattern. The birds were helping each other. Pastor Rod explained that this is also how a community works, one bird (or person) does his part to help everyone while he can, and when the load is too heavy to go on, another person can pick up his load. It’s gorgeous to see this dance, in the sky, and be reminded of how we are called to help each other.
What’s more, no matter what, we all have a Lead Bird at the front of our flock who will always be able to manage His the load. When we’re tired or worn out, when we’ve gone too far, God is out in front, leading us all. We can rest behind him as He takes the heavy load. He will never tire, he will never falter, all we have to do is fall in behind Him and follow Him home.