There is a bird in the church. It’s been there for about seven or eight weeks now. I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know how it survives. I don’t know why it doesn’t leave when the windows are opened. But there it is. Or, there they are. Maybe there is more than one bird, but we only see one at a time for some reason. For now, let’s assume there is just one.
What do we do about it? Should we do anything about it? If there was a class in seminary on what to do when a bird finds its way into the nave, I missed it. When a bird found its way into a warehouse I used to work in, we’d just turn off all the lights, open one of the bay doors, and the bird would fly out as it sought the only source of light. Our sanctuary, however, is full of light; so that’s not an option.
Here’s a question: Does the bird belong in our church?
No, is one answer. Outside things belong outside. We hire a pest control company to come into the church once every few weeks to lay traps for insects and to look for evidence of mice or other critters. It’s a health issue. Others might argue that the bird poses no kind of health risk and, other than needing to wipe up some bird poop off the pews, what’s the problem? Its song might be distracting, but maybe the bird is trying to preach the sermon we really ought to hear!
The past hundred years or so has been a large human project of identifying and putting things in their place. People belong here, nature belongs there. This is a child thing; that is an adult thing. This is urban; that is rural. This is a religious thing; that is a secular thing. This is a Lutheran way of doings things; that is not. These are our allies; they are the enemy. This practise made things seemingly so neat and tidy.
But maybe you’ve noticed that the distinctions aren’t so clear anymore. Urban farming is being explored. People are working from home offices. Children are being home schooled. Nobody seems to care about the distinctions between Christian denominations, or even religions, anymore – “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Who our allies are and who our enemies are is a constantly shifting landscape.
Jesus avoided the righteous and ate with sinners. He questioned why healing should not happen on the Sabbath. He preached that, to find our lives, we must be prepared to lose them; that we must love our enemies and bless those who curse us.
Does technology belong in worship? Do non-Christian teachings and practices belong in our life together? Does theological conversation belong in a bar over a beer? Does faith belong in politics or economics?
Does a bird belong in the Church?