Rev. George Miller
August 4, 2013
10 years ago a documentary about birds came out called “Winged Migration.”
It begins with the narrator saying “The story of migrating birds is the story of a promise; the promise to return. They fly… thousands of miles beset with danger for a single reason: to survive.”
The next 90 minutes feature stunning, up close images of birds from all seven continents, during all four seasons, as they make their way across the globe to mate, give birth and return.
The film captures the exquisite beauty of nature, from snow capped mountains to the lush green fields. It also captures the reality of eggs that fall from their nest, snagged birds that are left behind, and predators of both the animal and human kind.
“Winged Migration” is about survival and promise; it’s about the journey that God’s creatures make and how they are able to face odds, obstacles, and great distances to flourish season after season.
Last week we came to an end of one of our seasons: Vacation Bible School.
As you’ve heard and seen, our 2nd annual VBS was an unqualified success. There were all the ways in which we were able to show and share God’s love and compassion.
There were the scriptures that were selected. While they celebrated God’s creation, they also taught
-there is no place we can go where God is not
-the power of words to heal/hurt/create.
There were the guidelines that were given: no teasing or bullying allowed; to accept the fact that everyone looked different- we have different hair color and textures, different body shapes, and eyes, and they were all Ok.
The children were fed, and fed well. There was always more than enough and no kid went to bed hungry those nights.
There were crafts and lessons to learn, to cooperate, to imagine, and to put their own personal spin on.
The “chicken jar” in which the kids could put their coins to help feed others.
There was Communion, held outside by the fire pit, using juice boxes and goldfish crackers. There the children learned that Jesus is like the green grass we can rest upon when the world seems to be a desert.
For a week the children of our VBS were well fed, well taught, well protected, and well cared for. They were safe.
As expected, the last day had a mix of emotions. Good to see it over, sad to say goodbye. For me there was some melancholy because this was at least the 10th group of children I have said goodbye to.
The melancholy was partly due to questions I asked myself:
-will they recall the lessons they learned?
-will they not be so quick to judge or to be judged by others?
-will there be someone in their lives to help them do their homework and tell them they are smart?
-will they have a place to rest that is green and safe when the rest of the world is a desert?
-will they have enough food to eat?
As a non-parent, I have no idea how so many of you do it. You create life; bring forth a child into the world
-teach them to walk
-pick them up when they fall
-kiss their boo-boos when they are hurt
-try your best to show kindness and love
-feed them with food that will help them to thrive and grow
And rarely during this time of nurturing are you thanked. More than likely you are taken for granted: it is assumed that’s what you’re supposed to do.
You’re damned when you discipline; barely noticed when you show an ounce of grace.
And then….you have to let go:
-the 1st day of school as they get on the bus
-their 1st field trip
-their 1st overnight sleep over
-1st date followed by 1st heartbreak
-1st day at a job
-1st time driving alone in a car
Seasons come, seasons go, a child’s time of migration arrives and, if you are a good parent, a strong parent, you let go…
You know they will fail and fall down. You hope they will succeed and soar.
You pray that when they come back it will be by their own accord and not with too many ruffled feathers or a broken wing.
If you have children, if you’ve ever worked with children, if you’ve dealt with the raising up and training of people, you understand all too well what today’s scripture is all about.
Today’s reading is, simply put, about God as parent. Not mother, not father, but parent.
Hosea 11 gives us an uncensored look at God; it is a tender, loving and heart breaking image.
God who gives so much and blesses us every day- but instead we turn to worship things, the Baals in our lives, thinking they made us who we are.
God, who calls us, carries and leads us, but still we want to do things our way, follow our own ego and our own decisions rather then try to discern what God might be trying to say.
God takes a step closer, but we migrate away.
God grants us freedom, but we’d much rather prefer to be slaves.
God’s desire is for us to flourish, but we’d rather forsake the gifts before us and instead try to survive doing it our way.
We see this happen again and again throughout scripture:
-the freed slaves in the wilderness wishing to go back to Egypt
-the comfortable Israelites in the land of milk and honey who stop doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with their Lord
-the decision that Jesus’ place belonged upon the cross and not at the table beside sinners
-the empty seats we see in church each and every Sunday, in every place of worship
For millennia people have been migrating from God not aware that it was the Lord who called them, lifted them up, and bent down to feed them.
Thankfully, God is not a human, God understands. God is patient.
God operates on a different time line then we do; an eternal time frame in which no amount of seasons is too long to be away. Nor any distance too great to travel back from.
We all, at one time or another, in some shape or form, wander away from God.
When the seasons change, when we get to the place in which we are tired, when we are weak, when we are worn, we can return.
When we’ve lost all that matters, when we find ourselves surrounded by pigsties and craving something more, so much more, we can return.
When the shadows of night appear, when darkness seems to last longer and longer, we can return.
When we are done with false gods and hungry hearts and ruined lives, we can return.
Like beautiful, noisy, trembling birds we can return.
We migrate back to God.
Like a mighty lion, God will roar loud and sure so the direction is clear.
Our feathers might be a bit ruffled, a wing may even be broken, but no matter what has happened, we will be forgiven; the grace of God never fails.
We will be forgiven, because no matter how many seasons come, no matter how many seasons go, God is anxiously awaiting our return.
We will be forgiven; because the heart of God becomes our home.
The place where we are washed in the water, the place where we taste the food of the field and fruit of the vine.
To fly towards the Son, to be lifted on high by the Holy Spirit and to know that no matter who, no matter what, God is awaiting our return.
We will be healed and we will indeed flourish.
That is God’s promise to us.
Amen and amen.