Saturday, August 28, 2010

C, Pentecost 14 Proper 17 - Proverbs 25:6-7 "Ruling The Roost"

The breeze lifted the feathers. The pigeon pointed its beak into the wind. But unfortunately for this little bird it was not flying. It hung on in terror for only a few seconds but then decided to bail out. The next morning the same thing happened, but this time it was the hiss of the air brakes which caused it to give up its position. This happened every day for a couple of weeks as the owner of the truck got in it for work before sun up, causing the pigeon to evacuate and retreat until the truck returned each night.

The confusing thing for the pigeon was its eggs weren’t hatching. After two weeks of seeing the startled pigeon dash off, the driver thought he should examine from where the pigeon was escaping. And to his surprise he found a nest with two eggs precariously balanced on top of the air tank up against the chassis of the truck. The pigeon had chosen to position itself in a place which was proving to be fruitless.

Then there were another pair of doves who took roost in a safer place. Every day they would come to feed with the other birds at a bird feeder regularly stocked with grain by the gardener who took care of the garden. These doves liked the security of being feed in the garden. They had no reason to travel very far, they ate all they wanted, and life was good. In fact they began to get fat! They ended up chasing all the other birds away. They took the best place, all for themselves.

So good was this environment they decided to build their nest and lay their eggs there. When they did just this, the gardener was not able to feed them for fear of disturbing them from the nest. But after a week he noticed they were gone, without a trace! No doves, no eggs, no nest. And so the garden once again used the bird feeder for what it was intended, and all the other birds returned.

And then there was a chook shed. Six chooks were spared the horrible plight of living as battery hens producing eggs for market. They enjoyed their new life of digging in the dirt, scratching for morsels of food, and enjoying dirt baths in the balmy sun. There was food on hand, a soft nest to lay their eggs, a high fence protecting them from danger, and a secure shed at night to keep them warm, high and dry.

When they first came to the shed they had no idea how to roost. Each night the owner had to lift them onto their perch, teaching them how to roost. Their life was peaceful and carefree for about a year, then there was trouble in the hen house.

Six more chooks were introduced, also saved from the plight of the battery shed. The joy the owner had in bringing the six new hens home was not shared by the other six older residents.

Confrontation was imminent!

There were fights at the feeder, squabbles amongst the scraps, and pecking and picking fights in the pen. And at night the older hens took it on themselves to rule the roost, viscously battering the new hens and frightening them from the perch.

The owner’s action was also imminent!

The offending chooks found themselves in confinement, missing out on food and fellowship with the other hens until they accepted the new hens. Just as they were freely accepted when they were first brought into the new environment!

In these three stories we’ve heard about three different situations surrounding the strange habits of birds. But really they aren’t uncommon to how we act as humans. How our pride determines what we do in order to appear righteous.

We, like chooks squabble to rise up in the pecking order, forgetting how we were originally placed in a privileged position. Or like the doves nesting in the bird feeder in the tree, we misuse the gifts given to us pushing others away, and in the end cutting ourselves from same gift too. Or, like the pigeon nesting under a truck, we reject what is pleasing and conforms to God’s will, and set ourselves up for a life of flight and fear.

In Proverbs 25 we hear… Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. (Proverbs 25:6-7 ESV)

One might ask, what is going through the birds head to do such silly things? One might muse that there’s not much room for thought in the tiny head of a bird! However, for us, what is goes through our heads when we seek to take the best seat, when we hustle our way up the pecking order, or we seek to rule the roost?

It’s surely pride! Do you like to be seen with privilege, having it all together, or perhaps seen as a source of knowledge and authority? It always hurts when we place ourselves on the pedestal only to find ourselves being exposed as less than who we’ve promoted ourselves. In fact all of us know the old saying from bitter experience, pride comes before the fall.

For us who attend church the greatest fall in pride we face is when we deem ourselves blameless through a righteousness of our own. Having been redeemed and made righteous by Christ, saved from the battery of eternal sin like the chook from the hen farm, we are quick to claim that righteousness as our own and then use it to glorify ourselves and put others down.

Or like the doves who build a nest in the wrong spot, we take God’s gift of being able to come and worship him in his presence, receiving eternal healing and forgiveness of sins, and turn his gift into a place where pride gets promoted and others get pummelled with prejudice because of their perceived weaknesses.

Or maybe we just are just too plain stubborn or wish to wallow in self pity to follow God’s will, and therefore put ourselves in a place of fruitless fear, continually running from the reality, we are in the wrong and need correction.

When righteousness goes astray in us we become like simple minded birds. Puffed up with our own importance we take our eye off the one enduring source of righteousness. The righteousness which corrects our ways, calls us to repentance, and focuses us out of ourselves back onto he who is our righteousness.

In fact, even as we hear about such unrighteousness put in the place of true righteousness from God, feelings and desires are provoked in us which make us want to get revenge. And in following these desires and feelings we soon find ourselves acting in the same way as those with whom we are offended.

Thank God that he doesn’t deal with us in the way we would deal with each other. Jesus comes to us and in our presence he takes the lower seat, he takes your cross. This is the place where the lowest of the low stand. And in his royal seat he seats you with his Father in the company of heaven. Where we might even consider taking a low position only to get gain for ourselves, he took the low seat for your gain; he bore the heat and was slain.

Where we might consider the pigeon stupid for building its nest under a truck, God continues to travel with us, protecting us despite the not so wise decision we as humans continue to make.

Or unlike the doves which did the wrong thing and deserve to be wiped out and forgotten about, God never forgets those he has chosen, and he has chosen you. In hearing the Word of God you are chosen.

Or the dim witted chooks who think they rule the roost, and sooner or later, might end up with their heads on the chopping block if they continue to hold their position over others. God took the axe to his Son to bear your punishment.

The message for us is this: God has given us our position, trust not yourself, as if you earned you own salvation. Be honest with yourself and God; continually turning your sin over to him, thanking him daily that he continues to bear you in his nail scarred hands. Be honest and see that in reality if left on your own you are in desperate need – human nature has become the lowest of the low. And trust that he will continue to lift you up and place you back on the perch of perfection in the banquet of heaven.

Don’t look up to see who’s ruling the roost. He who rules the roost is below lifting you up supporting you, showing you why you need his strength and calling you to heed his call to repentance and daily need of forgiveness. Amen.