I put up a bluebird house in my backyard a few years ago. Bluebirds are pretty rare and it is a long shot to expect that they might decide to choose my yard, but one can always hope. It turns out that no blue birds have ever arrived. But that does not mean that the house is empty. The house sparrows who used to make a nest in a little corner of the roof over a small porch at our house have moved into the much plusher quarters of the bird house. Two sparrows arrive every spring. I guess sparrows live for about 3 years so we are probably on a second or third generation by now. They busy themselves collecting all kinds of soft things to build their nest. Then they busy themselves making babies. (I was waiting for my grandchildren to arrive a few weeks ago and witnessed this second “busy-ness”. I was kind of glad the kids weren’t there yet so I did not have to explain this particular part of the wild kingdom!)

How many times do we plan something for our congregations or for our work as a specialized minister or for the presbytery that seems at first to be an utter failure? If we were to judge my placement of this birdhouse by my original intention, I would get a grade of “F.” It is a complete failure. No blue birds this year or last year or the year before. But does that mean there is no merit in having this birdhouse? Absolutely not. We will watch the sparrows flying in and out of the house as they wait for their new family members to arrive. In a few weeks we will listen very carefully and hear the cheering of the babies. Then we will see their little heads all peeking out of the house’s front door. And then they will all be gone, off on their own adventures.

For instance, we have several congregations in our presbytery where there are very few people left in the original congregation, the one that has the building and the history and the name. But in many of these places there are others “nesting “ in that building. Another congregation, a preschool, a community agency. . . If we judged the congregation in the usual way, we would say they have failed. There are very few people, there is hardly any money, there are very few children and youth. But look at what they are doing! They are nurturing others in ministries of various kinds. Perhaps you have an example in your ministry of a program or a plan that you devised for a particular purpose that failed miserably in that purpose. Have you looked to see if God made something else out of it? Was there an unintended consequence that had a good result? As Proverbs 18:9 reminds us, “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” How will you watch today for the way God has woven together what look like broken strands to create a new way to bring hope in the name of Jesus?

from, Sue

Rev. Susan Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Chicago Presbytery