Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Pilgrims in the Dark
Pilgrim passing through: Blackburnian Warbler by Marilyn Patterson
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims...
This past Easter morning beckoned me outside quite early. It was the silence that lead me on; it was the pure, still, unadulterated silence of the night that called me forth. I only followed because I was sure the silence would soon be broken.
Stepping out of my car, I embraced all the luminaries above, and felt their warmth and light wash every part of me. As I walked along, old friends such as the Scorpion and Cassiopeia gave their silent approbation for a tired, anxious mortal like me. For these heavenly lanterns knew I was there only to witness the silence being broken.
Even my thoughts began to rush with excitement over the spectacular happening that was on the horizon. They ebbed and flow against the shoreline of my grey matter, until only the future was on my mind. What if the future let me down? What if the silence wasn't broken tonight? Or ever....?
The promised noise that broke the silence.
What was it, you ask?
That seemingly insignificant sound was a "nocturnal flight call of a migratory songbird." When songbirds migrate, they perform this vital function at night. They don't totally rely on their vision for this flight; instead they use such rudimentary tools as the earth's magnetic field, the position of the stars, etc. Employing these modes of travel allows them to fly at night, which can provide a safe cover for these tiny, feathered beasties.
However, when these birds are travelling together, the night can be a problem if you want to see your friend. It can also be a detriment if you happen to run into someone else, especially if that someone else is bigger than you. But perhaps the biggest danger of all is not keeping a steady course for your destination.
To combat all these potential perils is that tiny SEEEP mentioned above. These flight calls serve many vital functions. We can only process a few of these advantages through our brains, but if we had bird brains, I imagine the advantages of the flight call would be innumerable.
First, the flight call helps you keep in touch. Without these tiny SEEEPS, birds would find themselves alone in the night sky. Not a comfortable place to be if you're heading from South America to Northern Canada, like some high mileage birds.
Second, the flight call keeps you safe. Should you receive a response from a bird ahead of you, look out!
But perhaps most importantly, keeping in touch with flight calls will get the bird to its destination in better shape, if at all. To be sure, the life of each individual bird depends upon the flock as a whole. If I were a Blackpoll Warbler, and I ended up in Russia instead of Ontario, I might be a little miffed at my friends for not letting me know I was on the wrong track.
As believers, we travel together in a dark environment, a world in which we have nothing. The Bible makes the emphatic claim that we are "sojourners and pilgrims" in this domain of darkness. We are simply foreigners on our way to our home country, passing through a hostile land.
That's why we vitally need fellowship. I used to feel the command "Do not forsake the assembly of believers" was put forth simply to ruin my weekend. But as time performed its work, I found that fellowship was one of the most powerful weapons in my spiritual armory.
Without communication, our soul weakens. Without fellowship, we will eventually put ourselves in our own little corner, where we will make daily sacrifices to our thoughts. The process is sad, but inevitable.
The road to heaven has many travelers, all with the same Book in their hands, and the same Spirit in their hearts. We must encounter them regularly, we must learn from the Book, we must fellowship. Or else, we may just find ourselves in a position we had no intention of arriving at.
As I bid goodbye to my travelers in the sky that Easter Morning, I was filled with the joyful anticipation of celebrating that Holy Day with my fellow pilgrims. My heart was glad and expectant because of the fellowship ahead. I knew that as long as our feet were on the path, the book was in our hand, and the Spirit was in our hearts, we'd turn out fine.
But I also felt sorrow for those who would not be fellowshipping with their fellow Strangers that morning. My heart broke at the thought of solitude on such an important occasion.
For a Christian without fellowship, is a SEEEP with no response...