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Further Along My Passage

April 2014
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Proclaim the Resurrection

Geese in Flight


My late good friend and mentor, Clara Cassidy, introduced me to Aldo Leopold’s classic book “A Sand County Almanac.” (1949) His lyrical prose describing the seasons entranced me.  In one entry entitled The Geese Return, he describes one of nature’s mesmerizing spring events:

     “One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring. 

     A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence.  A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed.  But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat.  His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

     A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.  I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof.  Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?  The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.

    The geese that proclaim the seasons to our farm are aware of many things...The south bound November flocks pass over us high and haughty, with scarcely a honk of recognition for their favorite sandbars and sloughs.... November geese are aware that every marsh and pond bristles from dawn till dark with hopeful guns.   March geese are a different story.  Although they have been shot at most of the winter, as attested by their buckshot-battered pinions, they know that the spring truce is now in effect.  They wind the oxbows of the river, cutting low over the now gunless points and islands, and gabbling to each sandbar as to a long lost friend.  They weave low over the marshes and meadows, greeting each newly melted puddle and pool.  Finally, after a few pro-form circlings of our marsh, they set wing and glide silently to the pond, black landing-gear lowered and rumps white against the far hill.  Once touching the water, our newly arrived guests set up a honking and splashing that shakes the last thought of winter out of the brittle cattails.  Our geese are home again!

     Every March since the Pleistocene, the geese have honked unity from China Sea to Siberian Steppe, from Euphrates to Volga, from Nile to Murmansk, from Lincolnshire to Spitzbergen.  Every March since the Pleistocene, the geese have honked unity from Currituck to Labrador, Matamuskeet to Ungava, Horseshoe Lake to Hudson’s Bay, Avery Island to Baffin Land, Panhandle to Mackenzie, and Sacramento to Yukon.

   By this international commerce of geese, the waste corn of Illinois is carried through the clouds to the Arctic tundras, there to combine with the waste sunlight of a nightless June to grow goslings for all the lands between.  And in this annual barter of food for light, and winter warmth for summer solitude, the whole continent receives as net profit a wild poem dropped from the murky skies upon the muds of March.”


Canadian Geese in flight


The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Geese In Flight At Sunrise





The Power of His Resurrection

James S. Stewart

The most characteristic word of the Christian religion is the word “resurrection.”  It you had to choose one word to gather up and express the very essence of the New Testament faith, this would have to be your choice....

         This is the dramatic relevance of Easter to our confused, bewildered age.  Many in these tense, tumultuous days are trembling for the ark of God.  Look at the endemic conflicts between nations, the eruption of violence and cruelty and hatred, the appearance of sinister new brands of lawlessness and terrorism, the false values of a sick society, the domineering sway of ideologies which make a mock of freedom and true humanity.  It is not surprising that many are haunted by the fear that the powers of darkness may ultimately win the battles, paralyzed by that terrible doubt.  But listen!  What if God has already taken the measure of the evil forces at their very worst and most malignant, has met the challenge precisely at that point, routing the darkness and settling the issue?  This is the conviction that makes the New Testament—which, mark you, was written in a far grimmer age than ours – at once the most exciting and the most relevant book in the world.  This is indeed the basic fact of our holy faith.  The power that was strong enough to get Jesus out of the grave, and thus to set going the whole Christian movement across the centuries, mighty enough to smite death with resurrection – this power is in action still....We are celebrating a magnificent incontrovertible reality.  And therefore you and I, amid all the battering dilemmas and disillusionments of contemporary history, can lift up our heads, knowing and rejoicing that God still reigns, and God is in the field when he is most invisible.  Having accomplished this mighty act in Christ, He shall not fail nor be discouraged until he has consummated His eternal purpose and brought in the kingdom of heaven....

         Certainly it is this that explains the immense verve of early Christianity.  They went, those followers of Jesus, to men who had been defeated – physically, morally, and spiritually defeated scores, hundreds of times – and they said, “Here is the way of victory!  God has brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus.  With such a power at work, what may not happen – for you?”

That was the message.  And lest any of their hearers should think they were being merely rhetorical and romantic, always these men of the New Testament could go on and say, “We know it, for we have proved it. It has worked for us.”

         Actually, it was not necessary for them to say it.  For the fact was apparent.  The resurrection does not depend on verbal statements.  How was it that some ordinary, fallible, blundering men were able to go out and turn the world upside down?  It was not that they were commanding personalities – most of them were not.  It was not that they had official backing, impressive credentials, illustrious patronage; of all that they had less than nothing.  It was this – that they had clearly established contact with the power that had resurrected Jesus, or rather, that this supercharged power had laid hold of them. And still today they accost us, saying, “It is abroad now in the earth, the power of the resurrection.  Why not for you?”  And they look at us with absolute assurance, “Why not for you?”....

“Do you not believe,” they ask us, “in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, through whose creative Spirit all things are possible?’’  Paul in one shining passage spells out for the Ephesians the scale on which God proposes to go to work in their lives, the measure of the resources available to them; he says it is “on the scale of the might which God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.”  And if what Paul and this writer are saying is true –and who am I, who is anyone, to deny it? How irrational our doubts and fears become! “The God who brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, how shall He not – today if you will ask Him –revive and quicken you?”....

         The ultimate secret of resurrection power was given by William Cowper in lines we often sing:

The dearest idol I have known,

Whate’er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from thy throne,

And worship only Thee.

There is the streak of blood.  Tear it from thy throne and worship only Thee.  That is the Good Friday sacrifice.  And beyond it the power of the new Easter – the marvel of life blossoming red from the dust of self’s defeat, the joy and peace of triumphing in Christ here on earth and knowing that this is but a foretaste and a first installment of something still more wonderful to come when we are finally made one with Him for ever....

   Our destiny –if indeed we are united to the living Christ here and now, and if we are thus through Him joined to the immortality of God – our destiny is be reunited one day with those loved ones in the habitations of His glory and dominion, never, never to part again.  And all guaranteed to us by the Christ of Easter and by the risen life He is offering us now.  To Him be the glory and the thanksgiving this day and for ever.  Jesus, still lead on!

 


Edited from a sermon by James S. Stewart entitled “The Power of His Resurrection” in his book King For Ever, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1975. [acg]

Springtime in Holland

   March 2014   Voorhout, Netherlands

Little LambThis Old House Caption:  All Fixed Up and Ready to move in...


Columbine