Well, mercy sakes alive! Looks like we got ourselves another con…fession.
I never intended for this to turn into a mini-series but you guys are giving me way too much material to work with. So go ahead …pull yourself up a chair –or better yet, a church pew– and let’s have ourselves another little conversation.
I’d like to tell you about the birds and the …battles. Territory battles, that is.
Years ago, our daughter, Rachel, took a liking to birds so my husband set up a bird feeder on our back deck for her new-found-love. We’ve been hooked ever since. So much so, that a large, squirrel-safe container is now a standard piece of furniture on our front porch to house all things bird-feeding related.
There’s also a serious bird feeder in the front yard with multiple feeders containing specific seeds and suet to attract a variety of our favorite birds — yellow finches, house finches, purple finches, cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, woodpeckers, juncos–as well as the familiar mourning doves, sparrows and nuthatches, etc.
To top it all off, a guide to bird watching and bird feeding sits prominently on the front porch wicker table –a must-have resource for bird facts and identification. From our own perch on the front porch, we can observe these wonders of creation with their unique colors, distinct songs and fascinating personalities.
One thing that amazes me is the territorial nature of some birds…
You know what they say –“birds of a feather flock together” — but did you now that some birds from the same feather actually group into smaller groups of preferred company?
Here’s what can happen. Bird families will come to the feeder, flit around each other with great delight, share suet casseroles, sing harmonious melodies loud and sweet for all to hear, and splash in puddles until their feathers are fluffy and light until …another bird outside their preferred company comes along.
This simple innocent act of a hungry little bird coming along to get his or her daily morsels can suddenly turn these sweet little song birds into vultures with talons poised for the attack.
Their chirps seem to turn into squawks of terror to those approaching. I imagine the feathers standing up on the backs of their necks as if in defense to an approaching enemy. Their action signals war — territorial war.
In alarming fashion, it seems they have assumed an attitude and posture as the owner of the bird feeder and begin to clutch the position as the sole proprietor of the feeder, the food, the water, and the air space around them. They believe it was from their deep downy pockets that all was provided and therefore it all belongs to them. They defend their border …their territory.
Amused at their antics, we smile and keep on rocking in our front porch rockers — knowing full well who the owner really is and who’s in charge of feeding them all. And all the while, they keep carrying on like a bunch of squawking chickens.
Turns out, Jesus has a little flock as well– the Church, the body of Christ, the band of believers who love and follow the Shepherd. While commonly known for their sheep-like characteristics, in a similar way to our feathered friends, it’s a flock full of unique color, distinct songs and fascinating personalities.
Ironically, this “flock” has the same tendency to gather together at various feeding stations, sing harmonious melodies sweet and loud for all to hear, enjoy eating and sharing suet casseroles, and splashing together in their own puddles until …they feel threatened by another bird of another feather OR from outside their preferred company.
You see, years ago this particular flock put down stakes on the corner of — let’s say, 1st and 3rd Streets. On those stakes, the name of their feeding station is engraved in large gold letters. The wings of the feathered flock flying within those lines are tagged. They fly together — they nest together. They fluff and flit and flap their wings together.
They love their Creator and know their call is to fly out to other territories to call people to follow the Maker of Heaven and Earth but sometimes they get so focused on tagging and marking with their own personalized gold lettering, they forget Who built the feeding station to begin with. They forget Who gives the food and the water and the increase. They become consumed with their station identification more the One Who identified them.
Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls likes to have his own field day and creeps in with the tempting little thought that their deep downy pockets hold the provision and the success …that their flock flies higher than others.
The territorial wars begin …
If the suet casserole is to be shared, they’ll do the sharing. If the songs are to be sung, they’ll do the singing. If the wing-span is to be measured — by golly, it’ll be measured by their standards. If they claim a territory or an event for Jesus, it’s sure to be made known it was their doing and you can be sure it will be marked by plaques and promotional material and personal pride in all that they accomplished.
It’s at this point in the story that I wonder if God holds up his hands in the shape of a cross and cries, “Time out. Fowl play!”
If the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, where did our provisions come from to set up a church where the flock is fed? Who owns the feeder and Who created the flock?
In our efforts to fly and feed others, is our goal to fill our feeding stations with thousands of other birds of a similar feather and promote our feeder over another feeder? Or is to promote the Creator of all? Are we engraving our name or His name on every staked out event and function?
Do our feathers get a little ruffled if a bird of another feeding station flies in on our air space carrying the same message of the love and redemption of the Creator? Have we staked our claim for our feeder on the corner of 1st and 3rd or are we staking our lives on the claims and message of the cross of Jesus Christ?
Land sakes alive …this is not the first time this has happened. Poor Paul had to deal with a similar bunch of people running around like chickens with their heads cut off …and he shared a few words of wisdom that might be worth listening to as you sit on your church pew.
“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.
But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.
Friends, time is short.
We don’t have time to fight over who gets the credit for the good things of God going on around us or believe the silly notion that the one with the most toys wins. Jesus said to “occupy til I come” …not build your own kingdom and assume ownership over territory that doesn’t rightfully belong to you.
Go out there! Make disciples of all nations! And remember …we’re a family and we’re in this together. They’ll know we are Christians by our love not our trophies. For heaven’s sake, get rid of any selfish ambition.
And let’s all get along now, you hear!
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.