Have you seen the weather forecast for this week? Temperatures will be dropping to – 60 degrees centigrade. Winds exceeding 100 mph. No sunlight for months on end. Imagine surviving in those conditions without shelter, without heat, without clothes. Its hard to believe but some do, indeed they have adapted and thrive in such conditions. Every aspect of the Emperor Penguin’s life is tough, for the bird is the southernmost species and breeds on the ice-bound Antarctic land mass. What it takes to do this is remarkable.
At the end of the Antarctic summer, in March, the birds flop out of the Southern Ocean where they have been assiduously stuffing themselves, and begin a long trek to their mating grounds, up to 70 miles away. Thousands gradually come together, tramping over the ice in long single files like patrols of infantry. But that’s only the beginning. After courtship and pairing, the female bird produces a single egg, and then one of nature’s great curtains comes down.
A six-month [winter] dark descends, and the temperature drops with it, to minus 60 and [lower] – and the female bird departs. She has gone without food for so long – and the effort of producing the egg has been so great – that she must return to the sea to feed. The task of incubating the egg, in the harshest conditions on earth, falls to the males. When blizzards arrive, with 100 mph winds in a nightmare of [24 hour] frozen dark, [they] huddle round together in great groups to keep a minimum of warmth…
Most survive, and so do their eggs, kept secure and warm in a fold of abdominal skin just above their feet. After 60 days of this, the eggs hatch. The male then feeds the tiny chick at first with a milky substance, then eventually the female returns to take over, recognising her mate by call. How do the penguins survive 100 mph winds and -60 degree temperatures? By taking turns at standing on the outer edge of the crowd where it is coldest, and then moving back in to the relative warmth and shelter of the huddle.
It seems to me to be a vivid natural illustration of what God intends human society to be. A supernatural window on what his Covenant people, the Church, have been called to be, to show those who are spiritually cold, lost and alone in the dark, how to find the way home to the warmth, the comfort and light of the Father’s embrace.
God’s rescue plan for the world began a long time ago with Abraham. From Abraham, God was going to build a family of faith who would become an entire nation who in turn would lead the whole world back to God. That is the context for the covenant God makes with Abraham in Genesis 17. Our series is entitled “What Abraham Discovered” and today our theme is “El Shaddai – the God who Covenants.” Lets explore the passage and ask three questions:
- What did the Covenant mean for Abraham?
- What did the Covenant mean for God’s people?
- What does the Covenant mean for us today?
El Shaddai: The God Who Covenants from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.