Saturday, 7 March 2015

Lent day 16

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
Pigeons take refuge in a tree when they aren't foraging for food on the ground. In winter without leaves to conceal them, they are more vulnerable to airborne predators. They roost together and on occasions all fly together. In between, individual birds go in search of food and then return. There's a mix of stillness and activity. Nothing stays the same for long. For the predator and the camera, they present an ever moving target. 

There's safety in numbers, also extra energy efficiency achieved from flying together in continually changing formation, that affords greater endurance on the wing as they move from place to place. The interdependence of their life together optimizes the chance of survival in a changing, sometimes, threatening environment. God created them with ability to look after themselves collectively. It's a remarkable design characteristic.

Writing to the church in Rome, St Paul acknowledges different gifts and ministries exercised in the community, but stresses that each disciple of Jesus needs the other. Relationships between them have an interdependent dynamic that fosters growth and makes survival possible in times of trial.

"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Romans 12:5)

Human beings are social creatures, acting and working together in so many ways, yet each is also a unique gifted individual with strength of will that lets us distinguish ourselves from the crowd - very much a mixed blessing. Individualism may not work for the benefit of others. It can become a threat to the well-being of the whole when someone loses their sense of the Other and others. Each has a uniquely personal relationship with God maker of all, and yet belongs to a community that belongs to God. And that's what ultimately makes us who we are meant to be.

The world exalts the potential for individuality if other can take advantage of by it by creating the illusion we're more powerful and capable than we think we are. Paul invites believers to become more conscious of the gulf between fantasy and reality.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds" 
(Rom 12:2)

He reminds readers to be realistic about themselves and what they have to offer.

"For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of themselves that you ought to, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." (Rom 12:3)

We pray daily 'Lead us not into temptation / save us from the time of trial, for daily life is full of challenges to our sense of reality and understanding of truth, if not actual threats to our well being from a hostile environment or the hostility of others. We desire to respond in love wholeheartedly, but fear and confusion sabotages the best of intentions. As God says in the second Creation story: "It is not good for the man to be alone ..." (Gen 2:18)  

We were made for relationships. Solidarity and community build us up, and keep us safer, just as it is with the birds that find safety and support in numbers. Yet we are all individuals, needing to discover who we are and what we can be and do. 

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he spoke of the value of withdrawing from others to be alone with God. This is one place where it is safe to be an individual, provided we have not merely made God in the image of our own needs and wants.

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