Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. [Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)]
When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. [Romans 1:12 (NLT)]
It’s officially autumn and not just because I can enjoy a pumpkin latte while packing for our return to Florida. I know it’s autumn because the park’s population of Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes is multiplying as they gather for their trip south. You’ve heard that “birds of a feather flock together” and that certainly is true for the geese and cranes this time of year. Although a few pairs of cranes live in the park all summer, over the next few weeks, dozens more will join them before they all depart for warmer weather. Like the cranes, the geese also congregate in the wetlands of the park and the nearby cornfields. Because of the abundance of food, the birds gather here to gorge themselves in preparation for the challenging flight south. In-flight snacks aren’t an option for migrating birds.
Once they’ve gathered and eaten their fill, the geese and cranes will take off for their winter homes. Without knowing a thing about aerodynamics, wingtip vortices, updrafts, or reducing drag, the birds know enough to conserve their energy by flying in a V-formation that reduces wind resistance and takes advantage of wind currents. The lead bird does most of the work and, when he tires, he moves back and lets others take their turns. The V-formation also allows the birds to see the rest of the flock, preventing them from crashing into one another and enabling them to spot a bird in trouble. It’s been said that when a goose gets injured or falls behind the group, at least two others from the flock will join it. These beautiful creatures instinctively know there is safety in numbers and strength in unity.
As it is for those birds, the journey we are on is not a solo one. We are part of the community in which we live, a smaller community of family and friends, and a community of faith. Sometimes, however, we forget how much we need our community of faith—our flock of other Christians. We attend church but miss the stay and connect aspect of Christian life. Church is so much more than the place we meet for Sunday services; it’s where we go to bond with others in the flock. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ for more than communal worship. We need them to hold us accountable, to encourage and comfort us, to pray with and for us, to break bread with us, to share resources and responsibilities with us, and to both teach and learn from us. We need fellow Christians to reduce the drag when we encounter a head wind, to refresh us when we tire, to encourage us when we fall behind, and to lift us when we’ve fallen.
We’re usually told how much the church community needs us—our time, talents and resources. Let’s not forget that, like those migrating birds, we need the flock as much as it needs us. Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship—a relationship with the Holy Trinity and a relationship with one another.
As the grains of wheat once scattered on the hill
were gathered into one to become our bread;
So may all your people from all the ends of earth,
be gathered into one in you.
[“As the Grains of Wheat” (Marty Haugen)]