St. Stephen’s, Grand Island, incorporated the sandhill crane migration into our liturgy on Sunday, the third year of celebrating Crane Sunday. Because the crane migration peaks in mid- to late March, this Sunday falls during Lent. While it may at first seem a little unusual to have any sort of special celebration during Lent, the juxtaposition of our Lenten journey with the arrival of the cranes on their annual journey says something about the way Christians live in the world and about our incarnational theology.
Highlighting the connections between the salvation story and what is happening in this particular place at this particular time helps us pin Lent down to our lives and our world. The salvation story is easy to ignore once we leave church if it does no more than float somewhere up above our lives. When we see the ways in which it connects to our lives and our world, the Word remains enfleshed, incarnate, for us. Seeing the connection helps us understand what it means for God to come and dwell among us.
This Crane Sunday our weather in central Nebraska was still wintry. I drove to Grand Island partway in freezing rain and partway in snow, past dances of cranes that were well camouflaged with their gray plumage in the foggy fields. The origami cranes decorating the church took on extra meaning this year as we keep the people of Japan in our prayers. Our Christian education classes had made “bejeweled birds” on which the children had written their sometimes poignant hopes for renewal or new life at Easter. The reality of the salvation story for our own lives becomes more vivid with a range of particular concerns in mind, from the Japanese people on the other side of our planet to the children in our own parish, and with our gratitude for the abundance of God’s creation that we see with thousands of birds flying through the Central Flyway.
Our lessons Sunday morning included Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42, both reminding us of the importance of water, with Jesus talking about living water in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Sunday’s sermon on these texts can be read here.
In Sunday’s Psalm (Psalm 95), God says, “Harden not your hearts as your forebears did in the wilderness.” One way to soften our hearts so that we can receive the living water that Christ offers in abundance is to go outside and give thanks for the wonders we find there, for the cranes, the other spring birds, the sky and the rivers and even the snowflakes, sleet, and rain.