God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear.
– Psalm 46:1-2a (NRSV)
The Bosque del Apache is a National Wildlife Refuge two hours south of the church I serve in Santa Fe. Established in 1939 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 57,000-acre refuge is off limits to hunting, drilling, fracking, or other commercial use. Its sole purpose is to provide safety, food, water, and nesting areas for birds and wildlife.
The Bosque (Spanish for woodlands) is the winter home for tens of thousands of sandhill cranes, geese, and ducks. For a time, an experimental flock of whooping cranes also wintered there. During the annual migrations, the Bosque refuge is a critical stopover for other birds to rest and refuel on their long journeys across the northern and southern hemispheres. After the cranes and geese go north in the spring, the refuge’s wetlands provide prime feeding areas for incoming sandpipers, stilts, and other shorebirds. Flycatchers, vireos and a dozen species of warblers also come, using the refuge as a rest stop or a nesting place. Year-round, the refuge is a haven for quail, jackrabbits, and lots of lizards.
“God is our refuge and strength” affirms Psalm 46. It often brings to mind Martin Luther’s powerful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Sometimes we need the refuge of a strong fortress, “a bulwark never failing.” But sometimes we need a refuge like the Bosque del Apache, simply a place to rest and refuel, a safe place to nest and bring forth new life. For birds and wildlife, the Bosque refuge is both a place to call home and a stopover on a long journey. Sounds a lot like a church.
Bosque or bulwark, thank you, God, for your places of refuge in our lives. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.