Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Day at the Chur-- uh, Zoo

A little background: the day before Mother’s Day about thirty-five of us got up and got going and a couple of hours later arrived at the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia. The parking lot was already filling-up as we pulled-in and by the time we reassembled and headed for the ticket window there were, oh, I don’t know, a million people there. Maybe not quite that many, but there were lots of people, I mean to tell you, and lots of different kinds of people. There were little nuclear families of every shape and color and tonnage, teachers with their classes all in white tee shirts and hoping for some extra credit, now that the school year is winding down. There were singletons and couples and leather-clad bikers not a few. Some were dressed more for the beach than the zoo and others looked like they were on their way to a sit-down dinner. Some of whom we saw should have been in cages while some of the animals—and especially the sea lions and the elephants—looked kind and hospitable enough to join us for lunch. The gorillas were unimpressed. The snakes barely moved, and I never did see the lions and tigers, but the bears—oh, my! I never knew Grizzly Bears were both so skinny and had such long legs.

If we started our journey sleepy—at least that is how I saw it through my own puffy eyes—we were pretty excited when we first got there. But somewhere just before lunch the air began to go out of the balloon. “When do we get there?” turned into “When can we leave?” Hypnotically, the sleep we abandoned a few hours before so as to get on the road began calling to us again. As birds both exotic and common chirped and cawed and filled the air with song, some of our number seriously considered taking a nap right there under a shade tree. We kept moving, though, most of us, until we came to the aquarium.

I came alive standing before the various tanks of water: fresh, salt water, brackish. There was such incredible variety before me—and what the zoo boasts is a mere fraction of all there is. There were fish flat as cardboard and others fat as a tire. Some of them you could color with Crayola’s basic box but a few would require a much and subtler larger palette. There were beautiful ones and ugly ones, dangerous ones and docile ones, a couple as long and thin as a rope and one with a mouth the size of Ohio. There were piranhas and lion fish, eels and sea horses, catfish and sharks. I was transfixed, wowed, looked over to find another in our group with which to share the moment, only to see a little girl (not one of ours) leaning against the wall yawning, completely bored. So much wonder all around her and she was shaking her head as if to say, Let’s get out of here!

Now, she may have liked the birds or quadrupeds better. Or maybe it is a tendency we all of us share, to disregard the beauty and variety of creation, the wonder and texture of God’s world and will, in favor of our own tiredness or distraction or agenda. And many there are, too, who see the Bible in gray or monotonous tones, never imagining the wildness and weirdness and variety that is God’s Word and gift to us.

In our church we too boast such variety! Let us never yawn at it. We are witnesses to the energy and scope of God’s will for the world. So let us keep our eyes open. We are given the opportunity to examine and study the Word of God. Let us not hasten past it for other reasons to other things, but rejoice share this moment together. Let us rejoice together.

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