Just after sunrise early this fresh morning was the second time I've seen him. The first was with Tricia. He parks a newer pick-up truck in the eastern field adjacent to the 3-County Fairgrounds here in Northampton. When we prayerwalk, we often head there first to catch the new sun, luxuriate (and wake up!) in the fresh air, and warm up for the rest of the walk.
You should check it out at sunrise sometime. It's worth the trip.
This morning, he'd already opened the cages and the birds were flying as a flock in ever-expanding circles until they disappeared over the trees bordering I-91 to the east. As he was taking his last look to see if they were heading in the right direction - I'm assuming - I caught his eye and commented on the fact he was training the birds. I followed it with a question about where they they were heading. He said Brattleboro and explained he's also trained flocks to head from as far Cleveland, Ohio to Boston. He was friendly, and seemed to enjoy my interest in what he was up to.
I mentioned Tricia was born in Brooklyn, and was aware of people having homing pigeons on their roofs. His face lit up saying he'd been born in Brooklyn, and he'd had them on his roof there too. Small world.
Often on these prayerwalks I'm in a contemplative mindset, and notice intriguing spiritual connections in things I see as I walk. I just notice stuff which sparks thought. This morning as I was reflecting on watching the homing pigeons fly home or to their destination together, it struck me that God calls us to journey through life together and to help each other return to our true home with him. While certainly some of the journey is walked in solitary such as when we must face challenges and problems, and rely solely on God to get us where only we can go, he has also summoned us to travel with companions of the heart. It's what communitas, fellowship, and spiritual family are about.
So as I watched the flock, I noticed at first, birds set to flight after the first group were out of sync with it, and had to work to catch up before heading to their destination together. The larger group would stay circling until every bird joined the synchrony. I don't know if that is the way it always goes, but from what I've seen from my two encounters, that's the way it's done. In reality, while each bird had to take to wing individually, they chose to journey with the flock..
So should we, if we understand God has supplied fellow pilgrims to join and help us make our way home. We must join the group, and the group should "wait up" until all who've taken to flight to make the trip are accounted for. No one is forced to go, but the best way to head out is together. I know this isn't a pure analogy, often everybody seems to have a different pace, but I think the idea of extending grace to "stragglers," and folks who can't seem to keep it together much of the time so everyone has a chance to come along is a right view of the church.
I like that.
Sure, it's certainly easier said than done, what with people's penchant for "I've got a better flight plan thank you very much," or for wandering into spiritually dangerous territory from time to time, or "I don't like this flock's way of thinking or doing things," and on and on. And yes, it's messy as I suspect it is for those working with homing pigeons, but I think it's God's prescribed mode of pilgrimage to the destination for which we were made.
Nothing earth-shattering, I know, but a simple reminder from of God that we're meant to be in this thing together.