Thursday, June 5, 2014

To Battle A Mockingbird

Last week I did battle with a mockingbird who decided that our plum tree full of ripening plums was the perfect place to build a nest.  Since there were no eggs in the nest when I found it and purple plums were being attacked, I tore out the nest thinking that would be the end of the story.  By the end of the day, the nest was back.  I tore it down again.  Last year there were no plums.  This year there were plenty and we were already tasting them.  By the middle of the next day, the mockingbird nest was back in place.  This went on several days.  I was beginning to wonder who would be the most persistent.  It seemed like there was no end to the bird's persistence.  Mine was faltering.  I thought about ending this game with the shotgun, but I remembered the words of Atticus who said, "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird."   About that time I went to the plum tree and found no nest.

An interesting thing was happening inside of me as I did battle with this mockingbird.  I found my myself actually be thankful for the persistence of this bird.  She reminded me of the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18.  We know that section of scripture as the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge who persisted until her plea was granted.  Jesus used the parable to teach us not to lose heart in our praying.  Persistence is the word.  Persistent was the mockingbird.  I have often lacked that kind of attitude in my praying.  Too many times I have given up and moved on to other prayers.

The persistent mockingbird reminded me of how I approach prayer with our culture's instant gratification mindset.  It is a mindset which keeps me from seeking the will of God in particular matters.  It is the mindset which falsely comforts me with the illusion that I know what is best even when I am on my knees before the Almighty.  A persistent mindset might not get me what I think I need or what I want in the moment, but it might get me into the mind and heart of God enabling me to understand why it is that now is not the best moment.  And, what a blessing that would be!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Southern Homecomings

Church Homecoming Sundays are likely to become a thing of the past.  In our part of the country, it is an event peculiar to the small town or rural church.  In urban areas filled with people whose roots are elsewhere, it does not work.  My first appointment was in a rural area and two of the three churches had a certain Sunday each year designated as Homecoming Sunday.  In those places the Sunday of Homecoming also was the beginning of a Sunday to Friday evening revival which some of the old timers called a "protracted meeting."  Maybe Homecoming is also a Southern thing.  Having lived all my life in south Georgia, I cannot really speak with any sense of authority on that issue.  What I do know is that the Homecoming Sunday experience is still very much alive in these parts.
Yesterday my wife and I attended Homecoming at the Portal UMC.  It is the church in which she grew up, the one of our community, and the one in which we were married long decades ago.  Homecoming tends to bring back folks who are gone, but who have roots in a church.  There were a number of such folks present yesterday.  There was even the widow of a former pastor present.  The church was filled with home folks and folks who had come home for Homecoming.  The church had its best foot forward.  The grounds were immaculate as was the church.  Flowers lined the front porch.  The choir did a stirring rendition of something called, "The Old Country Church Medley" and the guest preacher was one who had deep roots in the church and the community.  A memorial service inside the worship moments brought to mind those who had died in the last year as well as others who had sat in those pews long years ago.  And, of course, there was a covered dish meal after the benediction.  Folks brought enough food from their kitchens to feed folks for several Homecomings.  
It was indeed a great moment of worship, remembrance, and fellowship.  As an event, it is celebrative and, yet, also reflective as the deceased members of the fellowship are remembered.  As an experience,  it points us to a heavenly homecoming.  It always strikes me as something nothing short of remarkable that the church is the one place where people can go, and still do, and be reminded of their mortality.  One of the underlying; yet, unspoken themes of Homecoming is that we are all going to die.  Surely, the reason the church can go to such is a place is the central truth upon which it is established and that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As He died and yet lives, so shall those who trust in Him. Some say our home is heaven.  As surely as such is true, it will surely be a moment beyond any human comparisons, but just maybe, these Homecoming moments give us a small glimpse.