Migration is an aspect of life for some members of the animal kingdom that continues to fascinate researchers and naturalists the world over. Migrating animals focus so intently on their purpose that it is almost impossible to distract them.
One pattern in particular that has intrigued observers is that of wild geese flying in v-formation. Accumulated study has shown that the flight shape is advantageous in itself; birds flying in v-formation can fly over seventy percent further. Not surprisingly, a goose that tries to break away from the formation soon feels the drag of flying alone and quickly rejoins its companions.
Research has also revealed a finely tuned set of social relations between the members of a flock of wild geese in flight. The leadership of the v is rotated, so that no one bird is taking all the strain of the headwind. The birds honk to encourage each other. And if a bird drops out through injury, two others will drop out of the formation until the other bird recovers or dies. They don’t abandon their wounded. There is an incredible sense of not only team work, but being a team. In fact some would say wild geese operate much more like a family.
You can, I am sure see where I am going with this. What a picture of how church should be! Most Christians believe that they were born to fly, perhaps not literally, but they feel that their experience of God and life should in some way mirror the exhilaration and freedom of a bird in flight. We want to soar like eagles. It was, after all, for freedom that Christ has set us free. According to Psalm 124.7:
“We have escaped like a bird
out of the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.”
What we don’t often recognise in our individualistic Western world and in our individualistic sermons that encourage us to be all that we can, is that, together, we can fly further.
To do that we need a sense of team that goes beyond being a team, a sense of team that feels like being a family.
Paul said in Ephesians 5.21:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
J.B. Phillips translates this verse:
“And “fit in with” each other, because of your common reverence for Christ.”
Working with each other and for each other. Encouraging each other. Taking turns to take the strain. Having such a sense of connection and direction that anyone who tries to go it alone finds it a real drag. And stopping on the journey to pick up the wounded. Fitting in with each other, because of our reverence for Christ.
Wild Christians flying in v-formation all the way to our eternal home. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit An Geadh Glas, the Wild Goose.
We might want to soar like eagles, but if we want to fly further, we need to fly like wild geese. Why not honk a bit of encouragement to your fellow flyers?