18 March 2016
Faith, foraging and flight
Rev Azariah France-Williams is a tutor at Westminster Theological Centre, a priest within the Church of England, and a storyteller and podcaster.
White storks are usually migratory birds. European birds typically travel to Africa or the Indian sub-continent for the winter months returning in the spring. The white stork has a diet which comprises of insects, small mammals, amphibians, and small birds which they hunt and kill.
This week research in the 'Movement Ecology' journal describes how over the last 30 years the birds have become increasingly settled as they are learning to feed on junk food from landfill sites.
They are becoming less of a movement and more of a settlement. The landfill sites are filled with leftover burgers and sandwiches. The storks are choosing this easily-found food source and in some cases showing signs of addiction.
Might it be that in many generations' time the hunter instinct may be somewhat dulled and the navigational impulse diminished? Could a white stork grandchild hear tales of adventurous travel to the other side of the world and find itself nostalgic for an era it never knew?
How will the change in diet and the lack of distance flying change the storks' appearance over time? Might our imaginary grandchild waddle happily along with small wings and hop most places as flight becomes unnecessary.
If the large supermarket chains are successful in cutting waste food, landfill sites will be reduced. How will hop-along grandchild stork be able to get food and fight to survive against the competition over a diminishing food source? Could a narrow focus of obtaining the next juicy morsel of burger or liberating a slice of gherkin from the Big Mac bun become what life is all about?
Travel becomes for the few elite stork who still retain the skills to adventure and hunt, explorers who blog, upload and of course tweet.
How many times have we been to a conference and, having checked out a keynote speaker, purchased their books and downloaded their sermon filled with exciting encounters of daring faith? How many times have we felt happy for them but sad for ourselves?
Our lives of school pick-ups, cramped commutes, Facebook browsing, sitting in libraries, and queueing in supermarkets feel dreary in comparison. Perhaps we have forgotten that we too have a journey to take, a distance to travel, landscapes to be traversed, and rivers to be crossed.
Might we have lost a sense of the ultimate for the immediate?
Augustine said: "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you."
One might say all the white storks are designed to fly far but the seduction of the short journey and precooked meal is appealing. The restlessness and yearning goes and new moments become old monuments.
Do we forage for faith and research reality for ourselves or do we mainly rely on secondhand information? Might God by His spirit want to call us to find the Spirit's thermal currents and soar in search of truth, in search of truth embodied, a truth which brings freedom.
Isaiah 40 reminds us that hoping in the Lord leads to renewal, and flight. May God be the one we seek to satisfy our desires for life and truth. May we not live on less than the best food for our souls and minds. May we not feel less than the best by simply admiring influential Christians.
May we all find our appetites, our wings, and take flight to find true rest and the best in God.