Last Sunday, when I arrived here just before worship, I had parked just outside of the southwest entrance. As I emerged from the car, there was a terrible commotion inside the bush right beside the door. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, but from the squawking, it was clear that it involved a bird. Sure enough, within a few seconds of me investigating, a pigeon erupted from amidst the branches, desperately flapping its wings and then flying eastward as quickly as it could. No sooner did I see this, than I saw the reason for the Pigeon’s panic: a bird of prey lithely emerged from the bush, continuing its aggressive pursuit. While I wasn’t sure of what kind of raptor it was, I later figured out that it was a peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on the planet.
I don’t know the fate of the pigeon, but what I do know is that shortly after this, a group of magpies took issue with the falcon’s presence, and there was loud confrontation that took place across the street from us.
It got me thinking to today, where we had planned on holding our worship service outside. It reminded me of stories I was once taught that young birds of prey learn to fly by being pushed out their nests. This is not actually true. Birds of prey encourage their fledglings to explore outside of their nests, and build up their wing strength. But, ultimately if they are going to live and flourish, they do have to get out of their nests if they are going to thrive.
It reminded me that Jesus often used the natural world around us to teach the kingdom of God. It made sense because it was all around them. They weren’t as isolated from it in the same way we are today. In particular, Jesus offers a series of what seem to be cryptic statements, and even ones that are harsh about what it means to follow him. He talked about animals and used it to frame things.
In the gospel of Luke we have this insight into the itinerant nature of Jesus.
When people declared their intent to follow him, Jesus lays things out. He uses this analogy of the natural world to say “Foxes have dens, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Human One has nowhere to lay their head.”
I think we forget much about the nature of what Jesus did. Traveling across the countryside, encountering people where they were, and proclaiming the radical inclusion of God’s love for everyone. Remember, Jesus never established organization during his lifetime, he never built a building, and if anything, he disrupted the one he went into. Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but he saw himself without a home, because a building cannot contain the good news of the kingdom. The next part of the story sees Jesus sending out 72 followers to spread the good news.
In other words, he was encouraging those who wanted to follow him to get out of their nests, to go to those unfamiliar places, and to see, experience, and share the good news of the Kingdom of God. We belong outside, out there, living out and embodying the good news of God.
That’s what Jesus is trying to tell us, because our mission is out there.