Sometimes, God is pretty direct and anything but subtle. Sometimes, it is hard to miss the meaning. Take, for instance, this paraphrase of the first chapter of Isaiah, which Eugene Peterson offers:
Heaven and earth, you’re the jury. Listen to God’s case: “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” God’s asking. “Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves?… Quit your worship charades, I can’t stand your trivial religious games: monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, speial meetings – meetings, meetings, meetings – I can’t stand one more! … You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning.”
Wow! I am reminded of an old story about a congregation of ducks.
Every week they would waddle to Sunday services, open the duck book, sing duck songs, and listen to the duck preacher expound on the meaning of being a duck. One particular Sunday all of the ducks waddled in and the service began. Shortly after, the duck preacher opened the duck book and began to preach. This Sunday, however, the message was different. With a new determination and fire in his eyes, the duck preacher began to convey a new message.
“We are ducks!” he said with confidence. “Amen!” said all of the ducks.
“We have waddled too long!” he continued. “We have wings! We can fly!” he shouted as all of the ducks joined together in a resounding “amen!” The service came alive as all of the ducks began to see their potential. “We have been confined to this mundane existence of waddling for far too long!” exclaimed the duck preacher. “We can spread our wings and fly!” The service continued with enthusiasm for over an hour as shouts of “amen” filled the duck church.
When the duck preacher concluded the service, the congregation of ducks applauded and closed their duck books. Then they all waddled home.
It is little wonder that God sometimes gets a little frustrated with us. How many times have we “seen the light”, only to switch it off and wander around in the dark? The truth is, we are not resisting God so much as we are resisting our own potential. It can be a scary thing to use our wings, to move from waddling to walking to actual winged flight. Being in community – being a church in the best sense of the word – is one way we can claim our potential, one way we can find the faith to fly. In Isaiah, God goes on to say:
Go home and wash up. Clean up your act…say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
In other words, let’s make sure that our meetings go somewhere. Let’s make sure that we don’t just close our duck books and waddle home. Because we were made for more than that. We were made to be co-creators with God and to partner with Jesus in creating God’s Realm right here, right now. Are you ready to fly? Want some help getting off the ground? Just give me a call – I’ll be happy to help you find your flock!