A Musing about Geese
So, on Monday at lunch time, I took my sandwich outside and sat on the picnic table. Yes, I said on the table!
It was a beautiful Autumn day and as it was also a professional development day at school it seemed the perfect time to savor my lunch while getting some fresh air and sunshine. Fortunately, I left my phone at my desk and while my leg is better from the pulled calf muscle, I decided it wasn’t worth the extra steps to go and get it and the world would have to survive without direct access to me for a few minutes.
I say leaving my phone was fortunate because suddenly I got to hear everything around me. The sounds of nature were refreshing. I experienced the wind blowing through the trees, the birds chirping in those same trees and even the buzzing of a few bees going to and from the blueberry bushes we planted outside the cafeteria windows last spring. I noticed a few squirrels scattering across the back lawn as they headed to and then scampered up an aged pine tree along the school property line. I felt the sun warm my body so that the jacket I was wearing had to come off. And then I heard from above the honking of geese in that famous “V” formation. They were heading south for Winter. As I watched them glide across the sky I wondered if they were going to the beach or Disney World and if so, would they let me join them.
As I finished my sandwich and watched them gracefully head away until I could no longer see them in the distance, I began wondering about that famous “Flying V” formation.
When I returned to my office a few minutes later I immediately grabbed my phone – after all I had been cut off from humanity for almost 17 minutes. After seeing humanity had not missed me, I Googled “Flying V” formation and geese.
I found lots of information. Actually, way too much – over 8,990,000 results to be exact. I did not read them all, but I did find some fascinating information.
So, the next time you see geese flying south in “V” formation, you might be interested to know that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Additionally, flying this way takes physical stress off the animal. The authors of a 2001 Nature article note that pelicans that fly alone beat their wings more frequently and have higher heart rates than geese flying in formation. Additionally, as each bird takes its turn at the front all are able to conserve energy and thus move forward to their destination much more efficiently.
This information got me thinking about the life of faith and our walk together as followers of Jesus Christ. It is clear that Christians who share a common direction and sense of community can also get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the uplift of one another.
Likewise, whenever a goose falls out of formation and perhaps thinks of going it alone, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to do so. Feeling the struggle of being alone it can quickly get back into formation. If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.
Also, I discovered when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the “V” and another goose flies point and takes the lead role. It seems that it pays to take turns doing hard jobs, be it with people or with geese flying to Disney World.
I also loved learning that the geese honk from behind and according to researchers encourage those up front. And I know we as people do better when we have others who encourage us in our endeavors.
Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly or dies; and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their original group. Geese help each other, share each other’s burdens, and even divide up the resources they come across.
Friends, sharing is both serving and giving. And it is vital to the church. And while the church uses the fancy word of “stewardship” to describe this, in reality it is simply sharing of time, talents and resources.
In Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Church at Corinth he encourages them to be generous in their giving to those in need. He talks of an offering being collected by the churches in the area for those in need.
2nd Corinthians 8:1-15
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So, we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
Friends, God has given us time and talents and skills and resources, and as a church we can make a difference by sharing these to the glory of God. May we all work together like that flock of geese and we will be amazed at the place we can reach and the impact we can make for the Kingdom of God.