“On Wings like a Dove” - by Pastor Bryan Fox - July 2018
This past season we have had some uninvited, delightful and thoroughly welcome guests move into our backyard, a family of doves. Actually they were Mourning Doves, given the name, I suppose, because of their distinctive sad, sorrowful voice. It’s hard to describe it in writing, sort of like “Hoo-ah- hoo...Hooo...Hoooo...Hoooooooo”. But I want to tell you that far from making my family feel sad and mournful, every time we heard the mamma dove’s call to her babies we all felt a deep down joy in our souls. Those birds really speak to you!
(I wonder if during mating season the male dove adds’ “Hey what’s cookin’ babe?” to his call… I’ll have to listen closer next year.)
It took us quite by surprise. One morning we looked out our patio window and there sitting on our deck were two cute little doves, with their mother perched on the railing watching over them. It was her call, that “Hoo-ah-hoo” sound that first got our attention to look. And over the next few weeks it became apparent that the Dove Family had claimed our entire deck, first as their nest and later their living room! How wonderful and fascinating it was to see the babies grow rapidly into independent young adults, and then one day they flew away. How ironic that on that day the Mourning Doves left, we found ourselves mourning!
I remember from when I was little, falling down the stairs with a home-made cape while trying to fly like Superman, to my awkward teen years longing to fly away from parties because I never learned how to dance, to middle-age when I actually took skydiving lessons to prove to myself that “I still had it”, and then there was that one special Father’s Day when my son paid for me to take a flying lesson and I actually flew the plane myself!
But those times of excitement and daring have long since passed; now that a lot of us have grown older and the years have taken their toll, have you ever felt like the psalmist? “Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking. Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.” (Psalm 55:5-7 NLT) Yup, we can all relate to that. And we remember another psalmist - in fact it was Moses - who said, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away”. (Psalm 90:10) But hey it’s not all bad. Moses lived to 120! But I don’t think any of us are quite ready for that! Nope, instead let’s think more practically, and expectantly.
Albert Edward Brumley, thinking of his days picking cotton back in the fields of his family’s Oklahoma farm, wrote one of the most recorded gospel songs of all time, “I’ll Fly Away”.
“Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away. To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away. When the shadows of this life are gone, I'll fly away. Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away. Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away. To a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away”. And then the chorus says, “I'll fly away, O glory I'll fly away in the morning. When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye, I'll fly away.”
Amen, let’s get on that “Heaven Flight” together!
“HO-HO-HO, Again” - by Pastor Bryan Fox, December, 2018
HO-HO-Hmmmmnnnn… Right there in the middle of my HO-HO I got to thinking, “What’s there to be so ho-ho-happy about as we wind down another year? Have things gotten any better since last December?"
Let’s see… Well, it seems we now live in a world where people are guilty until proven innocent, and even then guilty they will always be in the eyes of the cynical, which now seems to be the majority. Terse tweets and afternoon talk shows have pretty well replaced the presumption of innocence and the rule of law. Whatever would Perry Mason and Ben Matlock have to say? By the way it’s comforting to know that most of my readers actually know who those two guys were! But you say you don’t understand what “tweets” are? No worries, for a lot of them come out of the minds of twits, and yup, that meaning hasn’t changed, and there are more of them around than ever!
What else? Oh yes, we have a new government in Ontario, but I’ve already tweeted about that... But we’re all praying for them, right?
As for the rest of the world, not much has changed there. Even more war, strife, starvation, deprivation, and added to that ever-increasing deportation, migration, integration, assimilation and what’s that other word? Oh yes, frustration!
For us at Union Church the year has brought sadness and loss, but also joy and hope. Some have passed away and there will always be an ache in our hearts as we remember them, and along with that, sincere thankfulness that we had them with us for so long. But there is the blessed assurance and confidence that they truly are in the special Place that Jesus assured us is there waiting for us all. And so there will be a joyful reunion, one day!
Others have moved on to bless others in their new homes, and I am truly confident that will be the case! I hope they will never forget us and that they will know they are always on our hearts and in our prayers. And what is that "joy and hope" I mentioned? Well it is seeing our precious little ones, and more to come (!) and watching them grow and bring us, yes, joy and hope every time we see them.
Sadly, after Sunday always comes the rest of the week and we're "on our own" again, apart from the comfortable sanctuary of church family and friends. And inevitably our attention is wrenched away to the plight of the world around us, and that is where we have to be careful not to let doubt and discouragement take us captive. Yes, all this "stuff" is happening to us and around us, and there’s not a thing we can do about it, except maybe to try our best to let our little light shine right where we are. The old song says: “It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark. Better far that you light just one little candle, all you need is a tiny spark. If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free, a wonderful dawn of a new day we'd see. And if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be!” ( by J. Moloy Roach and George Mysels)
But how do you do that? How does a simple song become a world-changing reality? Maybe you need help, I know I do! Fortunately over 700 years before Christmas happened, a prophet wrote: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.(Isaiah 9:2) He was so sure it would happen that he wrote as if it had already happened! That is confidence! That is faith!
Then finally came that first Christmas, and years later a “Jesus follower” wrote: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.(John 1:5) And then just before that Light left the world by way of a cross, He said one day to a skeptical crowd not much different than people today would be: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12) I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.(John 12:46)
That prophet Isaiah wrote lots of other things about “Emmanuel” coming, “born of a virgin”, and having “the name - Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) One of those “other things” that helps us today, and especially as we face another year says, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known; along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.(Isaiah 42:16)
That sounds good to me! :)
Merry Christmas and a happier, brighter New Year!