I was walking in the Nature Center on Friday morning, approaching a point in the path at which a bridge crosses over the water. The bridge crosses at a point where the stream is too wide to be a stream any more but not quite wide enough to be the lake. A little distance from the bridge, two turkeys emerged from the woods to the left of the path up in front of me, turned, and headed for the bridge.
One of the turkeys was about twice as big as the other, and was in the lead. So I assumed I was watching a mama turkey and her adolescent chick. The two strolled leisurely over the bridge, and I followed several yards behind them. It was a sight I had not seen before!
Just then, I saw a jogger on the far side of the water, approaching from the left of the point where the bridge met the land, jogging on the path that runs next to the water there. I wondered if the turkeys noticed her, and in the same thought wondered if she was going to continue jogging along the path or make a right turn and cross the bridge, and in the same though wondered what might happen when she and the turkeys were face to face with each other.
I didn’t have long to wonder, though. She did, in fact, turn onto the bridge, and jogger and turkeys were suddenly nose to beak, about ten yards apart, together on a six foot wide footbridge. Needless to say, all parties were startled!
The moment the turkeys saw the jogger, they took flight. Have you ever seen a turkey fly? It is a truly bizarre spectacle. You watch a turkey fly, and you think, “Hmm. That should not be happening.” Proponents of intelligent design as a scientific theory have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to the turkey, because let me tell you, there is nothing intelligent about the design of a turkey in flight.
They have this big, round, heavy body and skinny little wings that would be so much better suited on a much smaller bird. When they take off, they launch themselves with a spasmodic flurry of flapping and heaving, and in the air their unwieldy bulk hangs down from their frail looking wings like a bowling ball under a paper airplane.
But, in spite of their awkward appearance, turkeys CAN fly – and DO, by the way. Like the two turkeys on the bridge – they took off when they saw that jogger, and in their fear they flew to opposite sides of the water. The baby flew back to the side from which we had come, and the mama flew over to the side to which we had been headed.
The jogger, after regaining her composure, jogged on.
Witnessing these events, I was curious as to what would happen next. Apparently these two turkeys needed to be together, and yet now they were separated by this water that was a bit more than the stream but not quite yet the lake. How would they get together again?
I crossed on over the bridge and turned left down the path along the water. Mama turkey was on the path, about 15 yards along, walking away from me. I followed her, keeping that distance.
As she walked, she clucked. Every few seconds, she made a short, staccato sound as she walked along the path. It wasn’t loud. It was actually quite gentle. But it was steady. It was patient.
And sure enough, a few clucks later, there was a spasmodic flurry from the other side of the water, and baby turkey risked it all, launched itself rather unceremoniously from its roost, crossed the water, and made a direct line for mama. A few seconds later, together again, the turkeys strolled off into the woods together.
More than just an interesting nature anecdote, I think there’s something we can learn here. I’m sure not every single experience in life turns out to be an illustration of our faith, but maybe this one does. Let’s see…
First of all, us turkeys need to be together, too. People like you and me need each other.
And you know, sometimes you look at us people and think, “Hmm. There’s no way one of those would ever be able to fly.” But we CAN – and we DO! We are capable of such extraordinary things.
Sometimes we do extraordinary things when we are startled, when we are scared, and those extraordinary things separate us from each other. One of us flies off one way and one of us flies off the other and there ends up being a great gulf between us.
But we also do extraordinary things when we are longing to be together, when we hear a gentle, patient call that invites us in. We do extraordinary things; we launch ourselves into the air and cross the water so that we can be reunited again.
All the church is really is just a bunch of turkeys doing extraordinary things so that we can be reconciled to God and one another. God’s voice is the gentle, patient cluck that invites us in. Hearing that call, we launch ourselves from our roost to do things no one would ever have thought possible, to love one another as Christ loves.
Us turkeys need to be together.