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Beyond the Horizon

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” ~ Mark 1:17

Birds showing up in unusual places is one of the great joys for birders, if not for the birds. Granted, some individual birds, even some species, seem to have a wanderlust, but often the reason a bird is somewhere they didn’t intend is weather. Seabirds in particular are effected by storms. As the winds pick up the birds might attempt to fly ahead of the tempest only to get pushed beyond their comfort zone, i.e. water. Some ocean species spend all their time on or over water except for when they nest. Some of those birds are physically incapable of taking off from land, so they tend to nest on cliffs so they can leap into space to get airborne. So when recent storms raged up the east coast, an adorable, tiny bird called Dovekie was hit hard. You’d be forgiven for thinking they are northern penguins from their appearance, and likely they would welcome the penguin’s ability to stand erect and walk since that would prevent them from becoming stranding on land, which happened with each of the recent storms. The lucky ones were discovered and got to a rehabber or at least to water where they were able to feed for a while before flying back east to the ocean.

From the bird’s perspective flying past the horizon to encounter a strange new environment is dangerous and frightening. From the birder’s perspective, during bad weather the horizon may offer wonderful surprises. On this journey of life, we typically experience the horizon as an unattainable goal which we pursue. We may talk about going beyond the horizon, but in truth, the horizon always shifts as we advance toward it, always moving teasingly out of reach. I’m not suggesting that we cease striving, far from it. The concept of the horizon is the carrot on a stick that can provide motivation and even hope. What I am suggesting is that sometimes when we look to the metaphorical horizons of our lives that we might anticipate gifts coming from beyond our current perceptions.

In the case of land-stranded Dovekie, the gift from beyond is not simply the beauty of the encounter with a fascinating avian sibling, but also a call to service. Maybe that is exactly what the disciples who agreed to follow Jesus understood. As fishers, they knew that the horizon was a reference, not a destination. So when Jesus told them that the kindom of heaven was at hand, perhaps they realized that they were at the horizon and service and compassion was a gift to receive.

Prayer: O God of the farthest star and the nearest breath, keep us moving as we follow you toward the already and not yet horizon. Amen.


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