My daughter loves to stand in the window and watch my neighbours bird feeder. She's fascinated by all the little creatures that peck away there everyday. Finches and chickadees, starlings and blue jays. They all seem to get along, it's strange. The smaller ones go to the feeder, the bigger ones clean up the scraps that get knocked to the ground. They come, get there fill then fly away. I haven't seen anyone peck each others eyes out or steal someone else's feathers because they are brighter. They seem to take turns, as if there's some kind of agreement that even though we're all a little different we have enough in common and we're all hungry so let's just get along and eat what this nice man has left out for us. Imagine that, bird brains...
Every once in a while though, they all fly away, at once, startled by something I guess. Then I see it, the crow lands under the feeder, he's too big to land on it. Sometimes a couple of his crow buddies join him. They're loud and scary and strut around like they own the place. They eat everything in sight (including my garbage). Crows. I will confess that sometimes when the crows are in my garbage I throw rocks at them, I've never hit one and I don't know what will happen if I do. It's probably wrong, but I don't like the mess they leave, because my garbage stinks and I don't want to clean it up.
Well today as I watched the birds and thought about throwing rocks at the crows the Lord spoke to me. He speaks in weird ways sometimes, but that's how I know it's him. He said, "you know this bird feeder is a lot like your church". "Hmm", I thought, which is how I usually respond when God reveals something to me. You see our church is going through some change right now, being stretched and shaped into whatever God has next for us. It's causing all kinds of trouble, as change always does. Our congregation is made up of a very strange flock of birds. It came from a church split, so we've got the old guard who started it. Then another church went through a collapse of sorts so there is a group that joined from there (a different denomination by the way). We have people who've moved from different parts of the South America which adds a little flavor. We have new converts who don't have any history with God. We have rich and poor, young and old, short and tall, pharisee and free spirit. How can we possibly come together and eat at the same table? What commonality keeps us from pecking each others eyes out?
Right now we are surviving as a church only by the Gracious gift of love that the father has left out for us, we're feeding on the bread of life and drinking from the deep well of Jesus blood. That is sustaining us and covering over a multitude of things to keep us alive as a church. We know for sure that if we come back next Sunday God will have something waiting for us at the feeder, maybe it's only some scraps or a crust of bread but he's never left us totally out in the cold. Even that expectation is starting to wane as we are getting caught in our petty differences.
Change is coming, however, and is bringing in the crows. It's a whole different story when we try to change things. Crows always get woken up when something new comes along. I'm not kidding, within 1 minute of me putting out the garbage a crow comes from somewhere. Not a crow in sight, everything is fine, I take the garbage to the end of my driveway, go in the house and look out the window - Crows! The birds disappear from the feeder, my garbage is torn open and I start looking for rocks. It the same in church, things look OK for a spell on the surface then someone attempts something different. Out comes the crow.
Well God told me this morning that he loves the crows too, and that he doesn't want me to throw rocks at the crows anymore.
In case you've missed the metaphor, I'm saying we have some crows in our mishmash congregation. If you go to church, you've got them too. But guess what, Jesus loves them just as much as he loves you. Hard to swallow isn't it, tasted a bit like eating a crow. What we need to do is stop being afraid of the crow and running every time one gets worked up. We have to learn to live with them and love them and get along together if we're going to represent Jesus to people who don't yet know Jesus. If we can't work things out in our own house then what do we have to offer anyone else. That doesn't mean we just give in to the fear and pressure created by the crow. It doesn't me we stop coming to for bread. It means we have to be more loving and bold in what Jesus has put in us, Himself. Leaders in the church need to lead in the authority given them by Jesus as church leaders. People that have vision from God for something specific need to know that the vision is from Him, it is His and he will complete it - crow or no crow.
Jesus used bird metaphor a lot in his teaching. In Matthew 10:29 He says "not a single sparrow falls to the ground without you father knowing it." Sounds to me like God may be in control of this whole deal.
He also says in Matthew 13:31-32 that the mustard seed, though it's the smallest of the seeds grows into a tree where birds come to find shelter and build nests. I know our church is full of love and faith. I know God has a plan in mind for us if we keep coming back to him to find food and shelter and living water. We have to love those among us who cause fear and fleeing. They're not so scary, they just need more of Gods love to get them through whatever stumbling block they happen to be stuck on right now. God will keep on filling up the feeder as long as we keep returning to him, and he'll leave enough for the crows to feast too.