07-06-14 Proverbs 30: 18, 19 Isaiah 40: 28-31
Rev. Linda Ruby
Being July 4th week end, our focus is often on celebration. We are to remember the men and women who have defended our freedom and we remember those who have fought so valiantly. And so we should. As I drove into Bellevue, the flags are flying in celebration. In West View, there are flags at every lamp post and last night we witnessed the fireworks exploding over the skies of Pittsburgh. Our neighbor to the south, Canonsburg has the second largest parade in Pennsylvania on the 4th of July. People are excited to celebrate and I am certain that many of you have been with friends or family with a picnic or some kind of festivities. The symbol of America flies high; the red, white and blue are never hidden. But there is another symbol of America which reminds us of the strength and power of America, we find it on the Great Seal of America and it is the national bird, the bald Eagle. The eagle has been the national bird for over 200 years. History says that during the Revolutionary War, an eagle was flying over a battle “shrieking for freedom.” It was chosen for its long life, its strength and how majestic it looks.
Eagles have been favorites for centuries, not just in America but around the world. In fact they have been on this earth centuries before Jesus was born. The writers of the OT enjoyed referring to them because of their majestic appearance. Our first scripture of the day is from the book of Proverbs, chapter. 30. These verses may be obscure to you but listen as I read: Proverbs 30: 18, 19 18 “Three things are too wonderful for me; four that I do not understand: 19 the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a girl.
Theologians have studied these short verses, mysteries of our faith and have made the analogy that they represent Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. The first is the ship in the sea speaks of God always being with us, no matter how high the seas become; the snake on a rock is that Jesus defeated Satan and death; the way of a man and woman represent Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as His bride; the eagle in the air speaks of the kind of life we, as Christ followers are to live because of Jesus Christ living within us. But what kind of life is he referring to? What kind of truths about our faith can we grasp from the life of an eagle? Have you ever considered yourself to be an eagle Christian?
Perhaps some of you have watched the eagles which used to reside in Hays. There were bird watchers who videotaped the birds daily, watching everything from the laying of the 3 eggs, the birth of all three, to the point of them being fledglings and finally learning to fly. They just recently left their nest. The first point is quite obvious, if we are going to grow up to be an eagle, we have to born an eagle. (In other words, crows or canaries will never grow up to be an eagle!) But the same thing is true about being a Christ follower; we have to be born again as a Christ follower.
Remember Nicodemus in John 3? A Pharisee, a member of the city council, decided He needed some time with Jesus, so one night he met with him. And Jesus shook up his world. Jesus told him he had to be born of water and the Spirit; he had to be born again. Nicodemus had it made, all the money, all the prestige, but he had a God-sized vacuum in his body and that vacuum needed filled. And so God through His Spirit became the great vacuum cleaner and moved into Nick’s life, sucked out all the dust and crust, so Jesus could move in. Jesus does the same for us. Jesus is constantly seeking each one of us, calling us to himself, just as he did with Nicodemus. He calls, He knocks at the door of our hearts and we answer. There is no forcing of anyone; it is the Spirit wooing each one of us to Himself. And so becoming a faithful believer, a child of God, it is like starting life all over again. And we are never too old for this. My father in law came to faith in Christ at the age of 75. He had been an elder in the church and had been very active, but he had an empty space in his heart that the crust and dust needed to be removed. Jesus cleaned out his heart and he became a changed person just like Nicodemus.
The eagle’s life begins in a very small package, the eagle’s egg. The mother will take feathers out of her body on which the eggs will be laid. She normally only lays 2 or 3 eggs, but we were an anomaly in Hays, because the mother eagle decided to care and feed all 3 babies. All the babies have to do at the beginning is eat and sleep. The parents do everything to provide. These babies are remarkable. Often they hatch a day or so apart, but all grow to maturity faster than other birds.
And they grow at different rates. You have heard the saying, “we are what we eat”. A male eagle does not rely on what he finds, he finds what he wants. The father eagle is very particular and flies in search of the right food for the babies and then brings it back to be shared with the eaglets. The eagle can fly thousands of feet high and see with his eyes the prey he intends to get. His eyes focus and then he flies down to his target. Meanwhile the mother stays with the baby eagles to keep them warm and to protect them. When the food arrives, it’s the mother eagle that makes certain each baby gets fed equally. Can you see the metaphor with us as Christians? No matter what age we may be, our God is a God of provision. He knows our needs. He sees us from a distance, but loves us up close and personal.
We are his children no matter how old we are. We may physically look like one of our parents, but spiritually we are to grow into Christ-likeness. Isn’t it fun to grow in Jesus? Some of us devour books, there are others who are maturing in Sunday school classes, some in book clubs, there are others who have been blessed with the gift of music and have used music to grow in faith, and still others of us, grow in faith as we sit at home at our kitchen table. How much do you look like your spiritual dad, your Abba, Father? The baby fledglings grow from gray fur balls to dark brown and eventually in two or three years develop the familiar white head of the bald eagle. Everything an eagle has, its strength, its beauty, its fearlessness and freedom; all its attributes just like you and me, comes from God.
But it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to become a mature eagle, just as it takes time to mature in our Christian faith.
While these eaglets are growing, the parents protect their babies. Perhaps you heard that a raccoon got up into the nest in Hays. Both the male and the female eagles attacked the raccoon and it was chased off without any harm coming to the baby eaglets. All of us who have children or grandchildren know we are often called to protect our kids in one way or another and chase off whatever it might be. But it is impossible to be with our kids, especially when they are adults and have left the nest. God sees them and knows where they are, even if we do not. But one thing we as people of faith can do is always pray. As you know here at Bellevue, prayer is powerful. Don’t forget about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. We need to pray it daily on our spouse, and children and grandchildren. The attributes of Jesus will give them the best protection as they walk out their daily walk. It is a privilege to pray for our kids, no matter what age, knowing God hears and answers prayer.
Where does all of this growth take place? In the nest, of course. In Colorado Springs, there is a Christian organization, the Navigators, whose headquarters is called Glyn Eyre. Glen Eyre is Scottish for the “Valley of the Eagles’ Nest”. The founder of the land, sited a huge nest in the cleft of the rock, just as it is described in the book of Job; “an eagle mounts up and makes his home in a rocky crag.” And because of this nest, they took it for their name. But this nest was unbelievable. Nests for eagles can weigh as much as a ton. Here in Hays, the nest was high in a tree. They are intentionally built very high away from any danger. This home is usually the same home for over 50 years, so the mother eagle takes a long time to build it correctly. It can be as big as 6-10 feet across and extremely deep. It has a shelf on which the eggs are laid. It’s mom eagle who is the house keeper. Dad eagles will bring home tin cans and golf balls, or anything that strikes his fancy, but it is the mother eagle who keeps the house in order until it is time to begin to teach an eagle to fly.
Baby eagles do not want to leave all this comfort, so when the time is right; mom eagle begins to make their home uncomfortable. The mother begins to pull out some of the sticks of the nest and the babies begin to gain balance, learning to stand. The eagle would use this gift of standing for the rest of its life, because of its need to perch in various locations, in difficult situations. Doesn’t our God do this in our lives? We sometimes get comfortable, whether it is in our home or work situation, or retirement and then challenges come which attempt to throw us off balance. When there are challenges in our lives, doesn’t it seem we grow the most? Paul speaks to each one of us when he says to “stand firm”. And in another scripture he says “having done all, stand.” Paul says it repeatedly to remind us, we will be in situations, at various times in our lives, in which we will have to “stand” for whatever may be the reason. Whether it is with our children or grandchildren or at work, it doesn’t matter, but God provides the ability and the courage for each of us to stand
But then the day comes for the fledgling, when it is time to leave the nest. It is just incredible how an eagle learns to fly. The mother hovers over the nest showing what it means to fly. They can “hover” motionless in mid-air about three feet above the nest. If the baby eagles could talk, can’t you hear them say, “Mom, what big wings you have?” But when you think about those wings, the babes have to learn to use them. These strange appendages attached to their bodies would become useless unless the mother would do something drastic, and that’s what she does. She daily cleans her wings and then she gently pushes the fledgling to the edge and out of the nest. As the baby eagle is falling to the ground, it is the father eagle that swoops down under the baby, catches it on His wings and brings it back to the nest. Listen as I read from the Voice translation: Deuteronomy 32:11 explaining how God sustains his children: Just as an eagle stirs up its nest, encouraging its young to fly, and then hovers over them in case they need help, And spreads its wings and catches them if they fall, and carries them up high on its wings; Moses wrote in Exodus that God has carried us on Eagle’s wings and has carried us to himself. These words should be comforting and assuring to us. No matter where God calls us to go or whatever God calls us to do, God is present. He is our security and he especially knows every need we may have; even when there are storms. I am certain we have all had storms in our lives. Perhaps we may think God has forgotten us or does not love us. Not a chance! God may want to deal with us so He may teach us about His immense power. The next scripture confirms this:
Isaiah 40; this familiar scripture begins with the prophet reminding us there is always comfort in the presence of God, and it ends with the familiar words about the eagle. 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait (hope) for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
I know there have been times in our lives when we have felt wiped out. It doesn’t matter what age we are, God through the power of the Holy Spirit, desires to come and rescue us. If he can keep the stars in space, and the planets aligned, God can handle the people of Bellevue church. No matter what our need might be when we think we are at the end of our rope when we are exhausted and feel as if we cannot go on this is when we can surrender to God and watch as He works through us. He helps us “mount up with wings of Eagles”.
One thing to remember is that eagles don’t fly, they soar. The eagle finds the currents of the air and rides the currents of the wind which reveals the majesty of an unseen force. So it is with each one of us as Eagle Christians. We are to reveal in our lives, the majesty and glory of Christ. Brothers and sisters, as Eagle Christians, we are made to soar in the presence of God, we are made to soar, with the gifting and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we are made to soar, not with our own confidence but only the confidence that comes from knowing Jesus, we are made to soar trusting God to guide us, provide for us and direct us.
What is your need today? Listen again—he will not grow weary, He will give power when we feel we cannot go any further; if needed He will carry us until we are able to walk again. These are promises we can hold onto.
Eagles have remarkable eyes. I have already mentioned their “focused eye” capability. But there is another unique factor in their eyelids. They have tiny little vessels in their eyelids which have fluid which keeps them off balance until they return home; sort of a GPS, which will always lead them back home.
God will fill us with His peace and His joy as we travel with him and He will always lead us home. We know as faithful believers, this is not our final home. The mature eagle knows innately when it is about to die. The eagle flies to a high rock, grasps the rock firmly in its strong talons, looks into the sun and dies. So it can be for each one of us. Without a trace of fear, we can look into the eyes of Jesus, the Son of God, hold on to Him as our rock, and pass into glory to be with him forever.
A friend, God has created each one of us to have Life on Wings. We are never too old to soar. As we grow in faith, we move as if we have wings of the Spirit and God gives us the eyes of an eagle, to see new opportunities with wisdom and discernment. When we keep our eyes strictly on the Sun of Righteousness, one day God will grant each one of us entrance into His eternal kingdom.
Let us all be challenged to live every day as Eagle Christians and learn the way of an eagle. AMEN.