Even the sparrow finds home

Bob R. made this bird house for me several years ago. (Shows to congregation)

Why do people put out bird houses?

Birds have special features to keep them warm in winter—downy feathers, puffing up feathers. But many of them need to find a place protected from the wind and wet, and to huddle together for warmth. A house like this is perfect!

We often call the church God’s house. Do you see any connection between God’s house and a bird house? (protection, huddle together, place of comfort) God’s house can be all those things.

But birds are not meant to stay in their bird houses forever. They need to fly out into the world. Likewise we need to go into the world to share the comfort and care we find in our spiritual home.

Our psalm today says, “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts.” God’s house is like a bird house!

If God cares for the tiniest creatures, then we can care those who are small or overlooked. It could be taking care of the animals, putting out bird houses like Bob. You could volunteer with Family Promise later on this year, or serve at the Friday PM Gathering. It could be sitting with someone who alone in the lunchroom or at coffee hour downstairs. Whatever it is, when you care in small ways, you show God’s care. You give people a home.

Adult Sermon This week I visited Charlotte Anderson, one of our older adult members. When you walk into the living area of her apartment, you see a large picture window. The window looks out onto a small deck and into the woods behind. It was a sunny day, the light filtering through the brilliantly colored leaves was stunning.

Through the years, Charlotte has put out bird feeders She always stocked them with different kind of seeds and suet to attract a variety of birds. And does she know her CT birds! wrens and cowbirds and barn swallows Charlotte loved providing for them, enjoy their antics and their beauty.

But the bird feeders are about more than simple enjoyment. Birds can be vulnerable to hunger, thirst, and the weather, just like we can. Cold weather increases a bird’s needs for calories at the time when food is most scarce. Dehydration is a concern as well, since water freezes into ice. A person like Charlotte who dependably has food and water available can make the difference between survival and death for some of the smallest of God’s creatures. She makes a home for them in their time of need.

That’s the image our Psalm uses today to describe God’s care in the community of believers: “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts.” This psalm was probably sung by pilgrims making their way to the temple in Jerusalem. To the Hebrew mind, the temple was the place where God lived, the “House of the Lord.” The image of even birds finding a place of rest and care illustrates the idea that God’s house provided for the needs of the most vulnerable.

What does it mean to have a home? for most of us, it means belonging, feeling comfortable, giving and receiving care. What does it mean to have a home in a spiritual community? A look at our church’s past is a clue.

Our Savior’s has been a home for many over its almost 50 year history. This congregation first joined two communities, one Danish, the other Swedish. Their combined efforts could accomplish more than they could alone, and boy did things take off! There were 40+ women quilting each week, there were men who kept the property in tip top shape. They hosted a missionary family who needed treatment for their son at the children’s hospital and a refugee family from Vietnam. They celebrated the gifts of their young people by supporting a dance troupe and mission trips. They welcomed newcomers to Newington in their membership, giving them roots and a community. All these people welcomed in were vulnerable in some way, in need some way, and this church was a place where their needs were met.

We are on the eve of our 50th anniversary, and it is time once again to make this a home for all people. We can welcome those who need a place to belong. I heard political commentator David Brooks say this week that people are not changed by programs (government or otherwise) but by relationships. That’s what we have to give. In fact today we welcome baby Eliza into what St. Paul calls ‘the body of Christ’-- a community with many different parts, different views, different gifts. By our very differences we make up a true community, like a full body equipped with each unique part. So we are ready to support Eliza’s family as she grows, to pray for her and her sisters Dahlia and Clara and her parents to find out what her unique gifts are and invite her to train them and use them alongside us. We are ready to embrace her with the gift of relationship.

But there is more to be done to make this the spiritual home like the psalm talks about. We need not only to give a warm welcome, but also to include people who need Christian care. We are well positioned to do this. As a small congregation, people don’t get overlooked. We do things inter-generationally, mobilizing children and adults to serve and share their gifts. We are good at accepting people where they are, allowing people to be authentic. We have service events and fun events to invite people to— it doesn’t just have to be an invitation to worship. We have connections in the broader community and we know people and resources. We can offer true companionship and care in the congregation, and share that same care with people outside.

One thing Pr Persida talked about while she was here this summer is the ‘two minute elevator pitch.’ It’s the quick little story you tell about why you make Our Savior’s your church home. Do you have one? Can you say why you are here? It’s worth thinking through. Because when you think about it, you could be anywhere else. There is a reason you are here. And if you have a need that is met here, it’s likely someone else shares that need too.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” God dwells in the community of the faith, that is, in us. It is lovely. We have a home here. We are called to share it.

“God Is In The Grey”

met with a man this week, ministry outside the congregation he’d gotten caught up in lies— it started first with just a few white lies, but grew into a pattern of deception that eventually got him into deep trouble. Of course he had his reasons for obscuring the truth. He came to me for private conversation, confession, and prayer.

The thing that struck me about this man was frankly not his behavior. Many of us have made bad decisions in our lives, and done as equally destructive things. It was the way he vacillated between justifying his behavior and grappling with the wrong he had done. He asked outright: What I did was wrong, wasn’t it? He wanted clarity; he wanted to know who was in the wrong and who was in the right.

Jesus story plays on common conceptions that there are two categories: good and evil the righteous man, and the sinner. Jesus turns the common conception on its head by counting the sinner as the one who is justified in God’s eyes.

For Jesus, everyone is saint and sinner, tax collector and God fearing believer. The man I spoke to—God is in the grey not in black or white God a part of his journey that led up to the lying His grab for authenticity was a God thing but the way he got it was hurtful Is it good, or bad? Right or wrong? It is both. God is in the grey.

problem for Pharisee: trusted in himself regarded others with contempt

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