Friday, March 24, 2023

The birds are back!

 Several weeks ago I shopped for Black Oil Suflower seeds for the bird feeder. The supermarket was out of stock and all they had was a wild bird seed mix.  Not my first choice, but I was in a hurry so I bought 10 pounds of the stuff and filled the bird feeder.  I didn't pay much attention to it and at first, the birds seemed to be OK with the change.  After a week or two, however, the level of seed in the feeder seemed unchanged.  Very little activity.  Even the chickadees disappeared. The most telling observation is that even the squirrels were avoiding the ground beneath the feeder! 

I consulted with bird loving friends and they assured me immediately that it was the change of diet.  The birds were boycotting the wild bird seed mix.  I paid a bit more at the local grain and feed store and refilled the feeder with Black Oil Sunflower seeds and the birds are back.  It took all of about 2 hours before they returned to the feeder. The squirrels have returned.

At about the same time I listened to a podcast, an interview with an evangelical pastor of a church in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  His story was disturbing and heartbreaking.  He was leaving his congregation after a long period of what he had believed was a  successful ministry among his people.  The reason being that his congregation was more influenced by Fox News than by his preaching of the gospel.  The virulent rhetoric of the far right had taken root in his congregation and they could no longer hear the prophetic word from the pulpit.  He quoted another pastor saying "I get them for one hour on Sunday, Fox gets them for 10 hours a week."   

He had been trying to feed them the Black Oil Sunflower Seed but they chose the wildbird seed mix instead.  It is not likely that they will return to the "feeder."

Meanwhile, I heard in conversation with another pastor that her congregation has begun the disaffiliation process to separate from their denomination over the ambiguous and ambivalent wording in church law that continues to insist that "homosexuality is incompatiblewith Christian teaching."  Then a letter arrived from a cousin in North Carolina communicating that her church is in the same process.  Some 41 churches of the same denomination in Texas  are pursuing the same course.  In each case, the wild bird seed mix is not acceptable and they are seeking elswhere for their spiritual nourishment.

It is not likely that these birds will return to the feeder. Just as the birds at my feeder knew enough to look elsewhere for better food, church parishioners are seeking better nourishment through the truth of the gospel than they can find within their own denomination.  For them, the inclusive love and compassion and the call to seek justice and pursue it that reverberates through the entire Bible is the Black Oil Sunflower seed of life.

When I checked my bird feeder as I was getting ready to refill it, I noticed that most of what the birds had left behind was dessicated corn kernels - no life in them - totally unappetizing - even to me!  And I wondered what desperation or what hunger could entice human beings to binge on a steady diet of Fox News which does not support a robust and healthy spirit.  

Our little congregation is considered to be a "thriving congregation" when so many others are foundering on disagreement about how to be the church in the world.  I can't help but think that the commitment to "extravagant welcome and heartfelt service to one another, to the community and to the world" may be the answer.  We literally have to duck under the rainbow flag in order to enter the sanctuary.  The preaching centers on learning to live as "beloved community."  Generous servings of Black Oil Sunflower Seed. 


  As we continue to rebound from the Covid stresses on the congregation, more and more folks are returning to the pews because they find something there that they cannot find elsewhere - the truth- a steady diet of the words of Isaiah and Amos and Micah and Jesus calling forth in all of us the deep yearnings for a world soaked in compassion and generosity and lovingkindness and justice. 

Birds are smart - they  fly in search of better feed when what is available does not sustain them, but they will return  to the feeder again and again when the right food is available.  I feel gratitude for being in  a community where the birds are returning and the feeder is rich with all we need for a healthy and joyful life, blessing one another, the community and even the world with generous and spacious hospitality offered to all who enter the sanctuary.

Vicky Hanjian



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