Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist
10295 Myers Lake Avenue
Rockford, MI 49341
Since moving to this area in 2011, I’ve gradually been adding to the number of bird feeders in the backyard of the parsonage. It’s been a thrill for this city boy to be an eyewitness to seasonal changes and corresponding changes in who comes to eat at different times of year. This past winter was the first time I saw juncos, and seeing the tufted titmice that have stopped by these first few weeks of spring has been a new experience for me, too.
As winter fades, however, I’ve been seeing more and more grackles. Grackles. It almost makes one’s skin crawl just to say the word out loud. And what is it about grackles that makes them look so sleazy? That purplish sheen they have when sunlight hits them makes them look like they’ve slunk out of an oil slick. I look out the window at them and I think, “Who invited you? What makes you think I put seed out for you to suck down your gullets?”
Yet how can I begrudge their presence among the chickadees, finches, and cardinals? I am a Christian, and Jesus, whom I attempt to follow, had something to say about how the birds of the air are fed by God’s own self. “Birds of the air,” he said, not, “the birds you want to see, Robert.”
Jesus had a thing about inclusiveness. He kept company with society’s rejects and pariahs. He touched the untouchable and spoke words of grace to the unmentionable. Jesus’ response to those who criticized him because he “welcomes sinners and eats with them,” is commonly known as The Parable of the Lost Sheep. It’s the story of a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep of his flock safe in the fold to search for one who is lost until he finds it. (Luke 15:1-7).
At least one church I know of has been building its ministry since 1996 on this prayer, “God, send us the people nobody else wants or sees!”
There are at least two lessons for me in this. First, I’m grateful that God does not look at me as I look at grackles. I’m glad God isn’t looking for ways to shoo me off in favor of someone more desirable. Second, I need to learn to love all the grackles out there just as God loves this one. In God’s ecology, it’s not about competing for survival and it’s certainly not about loveliest.
Jesus’ full statement in what I’ve referenced above speaks to each one of us: “Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?” (Matthew 6:26, Common English Bible).
Can I, can our churches, can all of us learn to welcome each child of God as God welcomes each of us?