I came across the following story some years ago in The Master Plan of Teaching by Matt Friedeman (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990, p. 73-74). I have used it as a sermon illustration on several occasions and it continues to impress and convict me.
“Suppose it was that geese could talk,” begins the 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in a journal entry entitled “The Tame Geese.” With that imaginative beginning, the Danish existentialist proceeds to paint a verbal picture of a land in which geese could not only speak but were also in the habit of waddling to church every Sunday. The presiding gander would honk eloquent sermons about the high goal of their Creator and such motivational topics as God’s generous gift to these fowl—wings. With the aid of these feathery propellers, the geese were told, they could “fly away to distant regions, blessed climes, where properly they were at home, for here they were only strangers.” It was indeed exciting for the geese to gather on Sunday mornings; at their sacred meeting they would, in their ecstasy, curtsy and bow and undoubtedly send feathers flying about the sanctuary.
“And so it was every Sunday,” writes Kierkegaard. But a strange phenomenon repeated itself weekly, for after the geese had enjoyed the fellowship of their congregation, worshipped the great Goose God in the sky, and heard an outstanding message, they would adjourn and, muses Kierkegaard, “Each would waddle home to his own affairs.”
Did you get that? After hearing of a generous Creator, wings, the possibility of flight, and the blessed climes and regions which awaited them—with a short honk or two thrown in to resemble some “Amens!”—the geese all waddled home! And to the delight of hungry human mouths everywhere they “throve and were well liked, became plump and delicate—and then were eaten . . . and that was the end of it.”
This sobering story by the “Disturbing Dane” is one of the many parables Kierkegaard wrote poking fun at the Christians in Copenhagen. These were folks who he felt were willing to listen to messages and attend services, yet were unwilling to set sail with the wings of faith and imagination God had granted them. Contained in this brief story is the premier challenge to Christian education in every age. Intellectual, emotional, and even pseudo-spiritual assent simply is not the goal. God wants a life of movement for the Kingdom. He wants us to fly for him.