For the past three months or so I have been able to observe a pair of seagulls who have made their nest on top of the block opposite our apartment. To my surprise (I have something of a bird phobia, but that’s another story) I have become quite fascinated watching them, and perhaps even a little broody.
First, the careful building of the nest in a shady corner, then the patient sitting and waiting. Three chicks were hatched some weeks ago; then it was the parents feeding them, with the chicks wandering over the roof in the cooler part of the day, but otherwise invisible in the nest. One parent always remains on guard, ready to repel boarders. Somewhere along the way one of the chicks has been lost; the remaining two continue to grow almost visibly day by day, the parents still feeding and protecting them.
For a little while the juveniles have been more visible during the day, slowly discovering how to flex their wings, running and taking little leaps into the air, a parent still watching over them. Now they spread their wings more fully and are lifting themselves just a few inches from the roof. They are beginning too to look over the parapet: soon the big day will come. I find myself, again to my surprise, on tenterhooks, willing them to fly, yet not wanting them to leave; worrying what will happen. Will they really be able to fly safely, to fend for themselves?
I’m sure no mother or father reading this will be at all surprised: it is the lot of all parents, bringing to birth, nurturing, and then preparing to let go. Is this how the Creator God relates to us too, nourishing and nurturing us through our common life in the church, and then letting us go? God then invites us to take adult responsibility for our lives, and that common life, in relationship with the creation, with our neighbour and with this loving God-self revealed most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.