a blue-throated warbler at its next with hungry chicks

photo: Creative Commons (tpsdave on Pixabay)

There once was a pair of birds. Knowing their eggs would come soon, together they built a fine nest high in the branches of the tallest tree around. It was strong and sturdy on the outside and soft and cozy on the inside.

Their eggs came, and soon after, they hatched. Sharing their nest with their young chicks, during the day the pair took turns keeping the babies safe and warm, and flying off to gather food for the hungry brood.

These birds were more thoughtful than most. When they flew, they liked to soar high, where they could see far and wide… allowing their imaginations to awaken to visions farther than even their eyes could see. In their hearts, they knew the world ached for something more: more peace, more justice, more love. And as they soared, they would sometimes catch a glimpse of beloved community.

And then, returning to the sanctuary of their nest, they would share their insights with their family. And when dusk fell, they would nestle together, tuck their beaks under their wings, and nod off to sleep under a skyful of shining stars.

Eating bugs and worms caused the chicks to grow bigger. And as they did, their parents made slight adjustments to the nest, pushing the edges out with their beaks to accommodate the growing family. And for quite a while this worked.

Until, that is, something somewhat strange and miraculous started to happen. Whenever the birds talked about their soaring visions, the treetop nest would glow with a kind of hopeful, joyful energy. And this drew the curious attention of other birds, who started dropping in to listen and join in.

At first, there was room in the nest for a few more. They just perched carefully on the edge. But the daily stress caused some branches to crack and a few to fall out. And it really wasn’t cozy or safe on the edge, but they all made do; being warmed and inspired by one another more than made up for the nest’s shortcomings.

That was, until one day. As had become their custom, birds of all kinds had gathered at the nest and were flapping their wings for balance, pressing for a foothold, and trying to settle into a secure spot, when suddenly, one entire side of the nest gave way, causing several birds to fall away in unexpected flight! Twigs and branches tumbled, clattering to the ground far below.

“We’ll have to put it back together,” one of the young birds exclaimed, as the unsettled flock returned awkwardly to various branches in the tree.

But the parent pair knew better. They knew they could not simply rebuild the original nest, which had been for only them and their chicks. Now, it served a whole community, so the new nest would have to be built as such.

With their guidance, a new design, followed by construction, began. Many branches from the original nest were still valuable, and with a little cleaning to remove fungus and mites, they would be excellent structural additions. But many new twigs and branches had to be gathered; in fact the nest’s base was woven of brand new, extra- long branches, so that the resulting nest could serve not just the current flock, but would welcome and accommodate those of whom they had only dreamed.

Each bird did its share to help in its own way. The little ones gathered tiny twigs and bits of moss and fluff to line the nest, while the strong ones gathered large, heavy branches. Some gave directions and others followed directions. Some gathered bugs and worms to feed the whole crew. And now and then, they would test the nest’s strength and resilience, to be sure it could hold the flock of their dreams.

And with time, the new nest was complete – enough to hold all of them with plenty of room to spare. It was soft and cozy on the inside, and strong and sturdy on the outside. In it, they all could gather in warm companionship, rest and renewal; and from it they could soar to great heights and from there behold all the land and more: visions of a truly beloved community alive throughout the world.

***

This story is one where the stewardship message is heavily implied. It was shared at a time when we were preparing to restructure and expand our staff team. It could apply at any time when a congregation is trying to grow, or embark on a capital campaign, or otherwise restructure how it functions in order to accomplish its mission.

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