In Northern Europe, where I grew up, in autumn it is often possible to see wild geese flying south to winter in warmer climes. The other day I was reminded of this when I came across a talk I had given a few years ago in which I used the southward flight of the wild geese as an analogy.
In that talk I quoted the Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard who wrote about the wild geese that flew over his property every autumn. In particular he described one year when some geese landed on his property and rather than fly on, stayed in his farmyard and saw out, what turned out to be, a mild winter.
The remarkable thing was that the next autumn, as the would geese flew over in response to the age old southern call, the geese in his farmyard became agitated at the honking overhead as if stirred by some inner recollection of what they should be doing, if you like obeying God’s design for them. However, rather than take off and re-join their southward-bound relatives they remained in the comfort and security of Kierkegaard’s yard. Then when autumn came around the next year they totally ignored the call above.
The behaviour of the geese serves, as indeed Kierkegaard saw it, as a parable for the state of the Western church which no longer hears the call of Jesus and His mission. It paints a picture of churches that sort of still hear the call to journey on the mission of God, in the Sunday sermon or bible study groups. However, like spiritual geese their feathers bristle for a while, the lungs fill with air, and they may seem to get ready for the journey, but they don’t really take off on the missional journey because to do so means to leave the cosy preferred comfort and security of their local church fellowship. For the western church is a ‘Cinderella with Amnesia’ as Michael Griffiths put it, and has lost sight of its God-given call, the call of Christ
Central to Jesus teaching is not the church (he only used the word twice) but the Kingdom of God, and so it is the Kingdom which must be our central focus. As a privileged member of God’s kingdom, the role of every Christian is to use all their God-given resources to establish God’s Rule- by making disciples our their King, by acting for the benefit of the poor, to be richly generous, by working for justice, indeed by painting the glorious colours God’s goodness on grey lives, 24/7, wherever we are. This is a far cry from the comfortable Christianity of the spiritual ‘Geese with Amnesia’ so common in congregations.
So the question is, will we remember who we are and why? Are we ready to fly on the wind of the Spirit? Will we leave the comfort of Sunday-Centric ‘church’, follow the call of Jesus and take off on God’s Kingdom mission in all its dimensions?
It’s Time for the Geese to Fly Again