If you visit Rome in the winter time you’ll see millions of starlings accomplishing astonishing aerial manoeuvres over the city as night begins to fall.
Five million starlings in fact – they come into the city to roost at night putting on a free air show before darkness falls. It’s worth finding a YouTube clip and watching the performance for yourself!
Now it turns out that the starlings aren’t performing to impress the local Italians so as to soften the blow of all the damage five million birds can do to a city…the aerial display is their defence against hungry peregrine falcons who are looking for their evening meal.
And the starlings’ best defence is to stick together, so that it is very difficult for the peregrine to isolate one bird for dinner.
Now if five million birds are going to stick together effectively they need a plan so that the whole thing doesn’t disintegrate into a chaotic collision of feathers and beaks … “I thought we were going this way; no, we’re going that way. Look out!”
And so each starling shadows not five million others but seven of his nearest neighbours. Each starling keeps focused on seven others close to him and sticks with them no matter what. It’s the seven companions that mean the one starling can be part of a truly remarkable aerial feat. It’s the seven companions that mean the one starling can be safe from predators.
I really like the way this pattern in nature reflects something that is true about human relationships. I see it in my own life.
It’s my closest relationships that help me to make something good of my life. Perhaps even something spectacular like a 5 million strong aerial display!
And It’s my closest relationships that help to keep me safe (not in a boring way) – formation flying with even just seven others is pretty exhilarating - but in a way that gives me the security from which to live well.
For me the closest of all those close friendships is my relationship with Jesus. Jesus showed the greatest love a friend can show in laying down his life for us. And Jesus calls us “friend” (John 15:13-15)
This week take note of who you are flying most closely with?
Do your closest relationships give you the security which frees you to live well?
On Friday mornings I go to a Music and Movement program for 0- 5 years olds we run at my church.
Some Fridays I channel my primary school teaching days and present the program. I spend an hour and half of dancing and singing and generally leaping about the place and I certainly don’t need to take any other exercise that day!
I have to say it’s one of the highlights of my week because the littlies are just so engaged, so ‘in the moment’, so completely given over to the joy of music with its patterns and pace; its progression and measure; its noise and activity and its silence and tranquillity.
I watch a baby grinning and clapping her hands in delight while mum bounces her up and down in time to the music.
I see a toddler totally absorbed in some crazy dance moves that can never be replicated and probably shouldn’t be for the general safety of the public!
I watch a three-year-old earnestly trying to copy the actions and two others laughing and laughing as they dance with each other round and around and I think about this quote from Rubem Alves
“Hope is hearing the melody of the future and faith is dancing to that melody in the here and now.”
Jesus sometimes pointed to the characteristics of children when he was teaching the grown-up world.
“Be like children” Jesus says.
Be like children in some very specific ways – see like a child sees; hope like a child hopes and then live like a child will.
Stop long enough to hear the melody of the great hope we have for a beautiful future.
Embrace that song of hope for yourself
And then dance to the rhythm of all it is we hope for.
And what we hope for is a world in which all human beings and all creation are restored to their creator and to each other in good relationship - no more death or crying or pain; no injustice
What can you do in your week to dance to the melody of this good future?