There is a parable about a wild goose shot down by a local hunter. Only wounded in one wing, he landed safely in a barnyard. Naturally the local turkeys and chickens were quite startled by this sudden visitor from the sky. As they became more comfortable with this stranger, however, it was only natural to ask about what they had seen but never experienced: “Tell us what it’s like to fly?”
“It’s wonderful!” said the Goose who told story after story of his flights. “It’s beautiful to soar out in the wild blue yonder! Why this barn looks only an inch high and all of you look like tiny specks from such a distance. First you fly high and then you can glide and enjoy the astonishing scenery.”
All the birds were quite impressed by the goose’s stories. Later they asked him to tell more stories about flying. Soon, it became a weekly event for the goose to entertain all the barnyard birds with his stories. They even provided a little box for him to stand so everyone could see him better.
But the strangest thing happened or maybe I should say… never happened. While the domestic birds very much enjoyed hearing about the glories of flight, they never tried to fly themselves. And the wild goose, even though his wing healed, continued to talk about flying but never actually flew again.
As pastor of a church, I find this parable frightening.
Why? Because it hits too close to home. How easy it is to talk about being a Christian without acting like one. How easy it is to stand in church and say, “Jesus is Lord,” without actually turning our lives over to His direction. How easy it is to sit in our comfortable seats and ignore a world in desperate need of our witness. How easy it is as a minister to talk about ministry without actually doing it. It’s easy to talk but you must really flap those wings to fly.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about what it takes to actually fly and follow Him: “`If any of you wants to be my follower,’ he told them, `you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.'” (Mark 8:34-35)
“Shoulder your cross and follow me.” Other versions of the Bible quote: “Take up your cross and follow me.” I used to think the cross stood for the pain of being a Christian. In other words: “If you really want to follow me, you must be willing to endure pain and suffering.” This is not an exciting thought and also not completely true. Although pain strikes all of us, it’s not what Jesus had in mind. If this were about pain we would be keeping `pain’ diaries to see which one suffered most: `pain’ winners go to heaven.
So, what does it truly mean to `shoulder your cross and follow Christ?’
Well, you’re not going to believe this but I think Jesus is talking about flying.
Jesus is talking about being committed to your mission. Jesus accepted the suffering because that was his mission. The cross was Jesus Christ’s ultimate mission and he was committed to seeing it through to the end.
A bird’s mission is to fly but you must first be committed to the work and effort of flapping your wings over and over until you learn to fly. Our decision to take up the cross and follow God regardless of the cost is our cross and our commitment to flap our wings until we finally fly.
But flying is the best part. It may be safer to stay in the barnyard but look at what you will miss.
What would it be like to truly soar and ride the air currents? If we live always so carefully protecting and watching our own self-interests, making no effort for anyone but ourselves we’ll miss the best part of life: Knowing our mission and having the inner satisfaction of carrying it out to the best of our ability.
A song in the musical “Godspell” said it best: “Day by day, day by day: Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”
If we learn from God to see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly , we will take our cross and fly.
– – – written by Larry Davies