A young killer whale at a large Canadian Marine Life Centre has worked out how to use fish as bait to catch seagulls. The whale spits regurgitated fish onto the surface of the water and then sinks below the water and waits. If a hungry gull lands on the water, the whale surges up to the surface, and enjoys the taste of fresh fowl. Now the whale's half brother has adopted the practice. He watched what his elder brother was doing and copied it. It’s expected that soon the other five Marineland whales will also learn that it can pay to sacrifice the fish you’ve got in order to get an even better meal.
The willingness to give something up in the hope of achieving something better doesn’t come naturally to human beings either. But experience teaches that such letting go – of time, of energy, of independence – can bring rewards that outweigh the sacrifice. It may enable us to develop in ways we otherwise wouldn’t or to get satisfaction from helping others. Jesus suggested
that anything given up in the desire to be his followers would be more than compensated for. He isn’t always clear about the nature of the reward. Often, like the younger whale, we learn the worth of such letting go by watching others who have discovered what there is to be gained by it. It’s what we see in their lives that might make us feel the value of any sacrifice involved in trying to follow Jesus.
Maybe today we might be reassured, especially in moments when it’s not our own needs or wants we are serving, that such self-giving does have its rewards. Perhaps our own lives are changing because of it, though we may not notice this. We may be becoming those whose lives encourage others to learn that giving up what they think they've got can lead to an unexpectedly rich reward.
Houdini’s secret is out. In his signature "Metamorphosis" escape, he was handcuffed inside a sack and locked in a trunk and yet somehow managed to switch places with an assistant on the outside. In fact, a museum of magic has revealed, the trunk had a side panel that allowed him to sneak out and his assistant to sneak in.
Sneaking is just what the museum is being accused of by professional magicians. Perhaps there’s a part in all of us that is sad to discover that the ability to escape from the most impossible situation is only an illusion. We’d often be glad if, in real life, there was a magic way out of difficult or painful situations in which we’re involved.
We have heard over this weekend, from servicemen and women involved in the D Day landings, about some of their memories of seeing comrades dying and terribly injured. They can never escape these painful visual images. In others ways also, the war itself has left a continuing legacy.
Everything that happens contributes for better or worse to the on-going life of the individuals involved and of the wider community. Nothing can be undone. We cannot escape the consequences of our actions or those of others. As we make decisions about our actions today, let’s try and ensure that nothing we do will create a situation from which we or others will later long to escape.