May 21, 2011 6AM: I am awakened by the sound of trumpets. Could this be it? Could I possibly have pre-judged Harold Camping’s prediction of the end of the world and now as a consequence I have been ‘left behind’ because of my unbelief? Nope! It’s just more geese. Every morning all month I have been roused by the infernal (not eternal) sound of honking geese. These giant poop factories are all over my lawn and have turned it into a treacherous and slippery mine field. It is really hard to describe just how much poop these creatures can produce. It would be equivalent to maybe having 300 German Shepherds living in your back yard. When I grew up the only time we ever saw a goose was when we went into the garage to get our bikes and were struck in the face by dead geese hanging from their necks. That could only mean one thing; it was the fall of the year and Dad had returned from one his manly adventures where he had bagged his limit of birds that no one is going to eat now that we had seen them in this gruesome pose. I know it had something to do with curing the meat, but it was hard not to imagine that my father was not some kind of violent goose hater that felt he needed to shoot them, hang them and then stab them to make sure they were dead. Looking out on my lawn, I cannot but think, ‘Where is my Dad now when I need him’? With the lack of hunters like my dad, the population of Canada geese has skyrocketed and they are prospering and leaving the farm to dwell in upscale suburban neighbourhoods where they believe the greenest lawn on the block needs to receive the most fertilizer. “Pastor Mark what does this have to do with the end of the world?” Nothing, I am just ranting because I have been sleep deprived, awakened at the crack of dawn everyday for a month by honking geese! Haven’t you been listening?
I know there are lots of things we can learn from geese. They mate for life for one thing, which is a lot better than many people I know. “Pastor Mark, are you STILL talking about geese?” You do know what all that honking is about when they are flying south for the winter don’t you? Frank, you get back here and fly in formation. Honk, honk. You should be flying beside me not with those buddies of yours. Honk, honk. And quit trying to show off and fly in the front of the Vee. Honk, honk. If you were such a leader where were you when the goslings were born? Honk. honk. You were off pooping all the time while I got stuck at the nest with the kids. Honk, honk. “Pastor Mark, come on now?” No really, after this month I now speak fluent goose.
Let me get serious here for a least a moment. Well, we are still here after May 21st so I conclude that we are not done in our mission to reach the world with the gospel. “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) I actually think the church might be able to learn something from geese to help reach our goal. Here are five lessons;
1) Synergy. As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. When we as the church work together in a common direction and sense of community we too can get where they are going quicker and easier because we are relying on the thrust of one another.
2) Strengthen. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it. No one of us should have to go it alone in life. One of the great benefits of the church is to be a community that is willing to give and accept help from one another.
3) Share. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. It makes no sense to do all the heavy lifting by ourselves. Church of the Rock is successful not so much because I am a brilliant leader (even though I am) but because of the phenomenal staff and volunteers that bring a wealth of skills, abilities, talents and resources to the leadership team.
4) Stimulate. The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. Study after study has shown the amazing power of encouragement. One university study revealed that students standing in a bucket of ice water could last twice as long when their classmates cheered them on. (I’ll remember that for next time I need to stand in a bucket of ice water.) Criticism or negative honking on the other hand is a recipe for failure.
5) Support. When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. What an incredible lesson for us. When we are part of a church family we should never have to stand alone during difficult times.
“Pastor Mark I would have never thought you could find so much good to say about geese?” Don’t kid yourself, I still have contempt for the poop generating creatures, I am talking here about the church. Which incidentally can generate it’s own fair share of poop. However, the church has always been and will always be God’s only plan for the future of the world. Jesus himself put it this way. “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” So we can sit around in our basements and wait for the rapture, or we can get on with the job… but let’s remember the message of the goose and do it together.