April 14, 2008

The Parable of the House Finches
Pastor George Van Alstine

This past Sunday, a pair of house finches flew through the church’s wide-open front doors and couldn’t find their way out. They fluttered and chirped between the front window and the hanging lights in the entryway, an area where the ceiling is about twenty feet above the floor.

The more people gathered out of curiosity, the more nervous the birds became. They flew back and forth in a frantic attempt to escape from these human giants who were much too close for comfort. Of course, the humans were their friends, just trying to be helpful. Ivory Webster made an effort to reason with them. Others pointed toward the front door, in case the birds forgot where it was. Tony Bennett began to cover some of the missionary displays below, in case the birds might drop inappropriate deposits in their excitement. Some of the wisest in the crowd suggested the best thing we could do for the birds would be to leave so they could calm down and bird-think.

Finally, the crowd moved away, feeling they had failed their feathered friends in their moment of crisis. Some concluded the birds were doomed.

The front doors were left open in case the birds came to their senses. Meanwhile, the last of the kitchen crew cleaned up after our Missions Sunday international potluck meal. At one point, Phyllis Blackwood brought up some cornbread crumbs and water and placed them where they might tempt the birds down. Alas, it didn’t work, and when the crew had to leave, the birds remained in their lofty prison. Alice Blackwood locked the doors, tomblike, and the birds were left to view the remnants of their Last Supper from on high.

I was the first to arrive at the church this morning, and as soon as I opened the door, I was greeted with reassuring chirps. Of course, I left both doors wide open to allow for a possible flight to freedom. I saw the two birds sitting high on a ledge of the front window. They looked forlorn, but one, probably the male, chirped repeatedly.

As I walked toward my office, I heard a flutter. I turned to see the male bird disappearing through the open doors. The other, the female, huddled, motionless. I thought she was dead, but then I saw a slight movement. I left the area to make the morning’s coffee, and when I returned, the ledge was empty.

Escape! Victory! Freedom! Salvation! Deliverance! Bird-prayers answered!

If Jesus were here, would this have inspired a parable?

“A pair of house finches, distracted by springtime pursuits of the flesh, flew into a space with a high ceiling. When human threats appeared, they followed their instincts and tried to escape by flying upward. But their only escape would be to fly downward to go through the door.

After a long night of terror, the morning brought a new opportunity for escape. The male saw the opening. After a temporary submission to the reality of the low doorway, he flew off to freedom.

The female was still imprisoned by her fears and was, once again abandoned by a male. Then it came to her that all salvation is personal and individual. Her mate’s wings had carried him, and her wings would carry her. After a moment of downward flight, it was upward and outward to unlimited bird-freedom.

A bird (or a human) who exalts itself will not find salvation, but a bird (or a human) who humbles itself shall be exalted.

Sometimes, the only way up is down.

Let those who have ears hear the Parable of the House Finches�