Canada Geese migrate over Manitoba. They add colour and context to our life rhythms. A few stay around all summer, but in spring and fall they become our special companions as we prepare for significant changes. Their various calls and majestic landings inspire and accompany us as we plant in spring, and clean up yards and gardens in fall.
I love the geese, but their flightiness unnerves me. I know they need to be wary; always ready to flee. But really, our quietly approaching canoe hardly poses a danger! How can they know. Yesterday hunting season opened, and I heard distant gunshots. Perhaps they were fired from canoes as inauspicious as ours. So, they are right to be wary.
We are wary as well; wary of the approaching winter. We occupy ourselves with cleaning up gardens, banding Elm trees, putting up Christmas lights and doing outdoor repair jobs before bulky gloves or numbing fingers make these tasks unpleasant. However, wary or not, these changes are predictable, and we know how to prepare for them.
Harder than the seasonal change are the changing roles of denominations and the wider the church in our society. Even while we try to welcome and accommodate increasing levels of diversity church community seems to be taking a back seat. We now have access to many meaningful communities; real, face to face ones as we gravitate toward affinity groups within and beyond the church and virtual ones through web-based communities. So much is changing about the way we communicate and align with each other, the ways we think about spirituality and faithfulness, the issues we gravitate around, the ways we join with others to make a positive difference in the world. Church leaders struggle to discern what the Spirit is saying and what new realities the Spirit is leading us toward.
As with the geese that settle on the river for night, there are voices that squawk contentedly and others that keep us aware of potential danger. Do we have the goose-like inner voice that helps us navigate and make changes we need to survive and thrive. The Celts connected migrating, squawking, noisy geese with the Holy Spirit. I wonder what they’d hear from these geese about facing our challenges?
This morning I wonder what a church trying to discern its future directions can learn from the geese. Are there lessons for us about shared leadership, about knowing where to feed, where to rest, how to build up strength for the journey ahead, or in learning how to stay on course? I wonder.
In this era of questions I’m grateful for geese as spirited companions of change.