The Amazing V (Part I)

I watched a giant “V” float steadily across the sky like a well trained army platoon. The geese know winter is coming, I thought.
Why are Canada Geese so disciplined? Science tells us their “V” formation increases the flight efficiency of the entire flock by seventy-one percent. The leader flies out front, breaking the wind and showing the way. The rest, flying in formation, enjoy  the slip stream of the bird in front of them. Tired, the leader rotates to the back and another flies forward. There is no need to become exhausted. When a goose leaves the formation, he feels the resistance of the air and the difficulties of flying alone. Quickly, he returns to take advantage of the flock’s power.
“I believe in God, I just don’t need the church. I can worship God anywhere. Why bother with church, God and I are fine on our own.” Over the years, I’ve heard these words often. Yes, one person, like one goose, can live well, caring for others, and loving God. Alone we can know our destination and eventually get there.
Jesus gathered a group around him. He didn’t do his ministry alone. He knew the value of flying in the slip stream, alternating leadership. He knew that the group is not only more efficient but easier and more fun. We call his group the church. It is our “Amazing V”. We have learned that sharing our problems, leaning on one another and learning from one another increases our abilities, and our joy by much more than seventy-one percent. Try it, for a year. Enjoy the strength of work shared.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”          (Matthew 4:18-20)

Why This Ritual?

At church, I listened, as two people read the names of our Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. Those names represented men and women – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children – all of whom were loved by their families and friends. And the list went on and on and on. With each name came the message, our wonderful, young Canadians are giving their lives, not that we might be free here in Canada, but that the world might be free. They are fighting to end the oppression in a far away country.

Today, Remembrance Day rituals, born out of the wars of the past, have taken on a new significance. Another one of our soldiers died last week. Although we don’t feel endangered living in Canada, our armed forces face danger every day.

I personally struggle with the whole concept of war. Yet I cannot ignore the oppression, the violence, the pain in far off places like Afghanistan. Our Bible, through the words of St. Paul, tells us “when one suffers we all suffer.”  We cannot close our ears to the cries of fellow human beings no matter where they live.

Our freedom, here in Canada, is not guaranteed. It is as fragile as our caring for one another. It is as fragile as life itself. We need this Remembrance Day ritual, not just to remember the past, but to help us make sense of the present. This ritual tells us once again, to practice peace every single day of our lives.

How Many Lives Shall I Touch Today?

Some mornings when I first wake up, I do some stretching exercises. Often I find an excuse that allows me to skip them. After all, they aren’t rigorous enough to be part of a weight loss or muscle building program. Besides, it takes at least a week before I notice the stiffness creeping into my back and hips.

Living our Christianity, like daily exercises, requires intentionality. In my daily devotional reading I found this poem written by a person named “Jones”.

            “How many lives shall I touch today?

             How many neighbors will pass my way?

             I can bless so many and help so much,

             if I meet each one with a Christ-like touch.”

How many lives shall I touch today? Most of us come in direct contact with an entire crowd of people in any one day. Think about it: family, friends, co-workers, shop-keepers, restaurant workers, doctors, computer connections, strangers …

Being intentional about our interactions with people can add to the total love and joy in this world. Offering the waitress a word of praise can make a difference for her, and for all who hear you. A word of encouragement for a complaining teenager warms your heart and hers. Pausing to listen when a co-worker speaks of concerns or celebrations starts a wave of good feelings that emanates outward. We know this, and yet we get so wrapped up in ourselves, our concerns, our impatience, we forget.

During your morning exercises, prayers, or coffee, tally up the people you will be touching today. Follow this with a short prayer, asking God’s help in making each touch a Jesus touch of joy and love. Over time, this exercise will make a difference in your life and in this world.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)