Margaret Craven's novel, "I Heard the Owl Call My Name," is one of my all-time favorite books. Published in the USA in the early seventies, it revitalized my spirit of call as a parish pastor.
The story is about a young Anglican vicar, Mark Bryan, who is assigned by his bishop for his first call as the pastor of the Kwakiutl people in British Columbia. The bishop—knowing that Mark has a disease that will take his life in two to three years—wants this exceptionally bright and privileged young man to learn about living before he dies.
Over a period of time and after some crises, the young priest and the people learn to trust one another. One piece of wisdom they share with their vicar was that when a person heard the owl call their name, death would soon be calling at their door.
One night Mark heard the owl call his name. He was not so sure whether he should believe what seemed like a superstition, but his congregation knew and began to prepare. When Mark died helping his friend trying to salvage the community boat in a storm, the tribe insisted that their young pastor be buried in the ancestral cemetery. He belonged to them.
Mark learned the truth of what Paul was talking about when he wrote, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." The way our Abba, Father, gathers his children beyond all cultural and language barriers for his blessing are often beyond our understanding. When we hear a complete stranger call out "Abba, Father!" all we can say is, "How can this be?"
Prepare us, Abba, Father, to embrace your blessings in preparation for the day we hear the owl call our name. In the name of the Father and the name of the Son and the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Romans 8:12-17 (NRSV)
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—
13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!"
16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.