Forgetting the words?

Days like today I like to go out onto our small apartment balcony and put my toes in the sun… and let them sit there until they become too hot. For just a few moments, all is right with the world.

Try telling the hummingbirds that. The hummingbirds have returned and buzz about my head but soon they’ll take to fighting. Flowers are few at this time of the year, so they fiercely guard each bloom (or feeder) as a matter of self-preservation. There are limited resources, and the instinct to protect their territory overrides everything. Even confronted with the presence of multiple feeders (bounty!) some birds will continue to respond from this deep biological need to protect what they see as theirs.

I’ve witnessed this behavior in the church as well.

There’s an instinctive desire for preservation within some congregations that encourages behavior that is downright aggressive. When we focus on the scarcity of resources we immediately become defensive of our own territory. We cannot conceive of living another way… and so we fight. 

If the perceived resources are REALLY tight – and we’re either a hummingbird or a congregation – we might take another tack: torpor. Hummingbirds require an immense amount of energy to survive. At night they dip into torpor – a state in which only the essential bodily functions are maintained. They look as if they are dead.

Hummingbirds fight over resources and enter into torpor because they have evolved to do so. I could argue that this is also the case with some congregations (and, if I’m honest, our denomination as well) but I believe our call is different. 

As the old joke suggests, perhaps hummingbirds hum because they’ve forgotten the words. 

Sometimes I wonder if the church has stopped humming because it’s not only forgotten the words, but also the Author of the song. We’ve forgotten that our purpose isn’t self-preservation, but proclamation. We’ve forgotten that our song is one of shelter and fellowship for the children of God, and that in addition to worship we are called to the promotion of social righteousness. We are called to be the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. 

Praying for the church. Praying for us all.

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