Sanctuary of Grace

As part of my birthday vacation last week, I attended a bird photographing event at the World Bird Sanctuary just outside of St. Louis. It was an opportunity to get close to owls, falcons, eagles, and other birds. And let me tell you, they were gorgeous! The psalmist writes, “. . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works . . . (Psalm 134:14)” This text can also refer to these magnificent creatures I experienced at the park.

As beautiful and magnificent as each of these birds were, they were at the sanctuary because something was wrong with them. One bird was blind in one eye, another had a deformed beak. Still another could not fully grasp with its right talon. Each bird had a condition that prevented it from living in the wild and needed special attention at the sanctuary.

We are part of a flawed humanity. Even at our best we are broken and in need of spiritual repair through confession and worship. We are in need of a God who is constantly loving us toward health and repairing broken chains of relationship between one another. The church becomes a gift, a sanctuary, to people seeking love and forgiveness from a God who is seeking to love and forgive.

Sometimes we get frustrated with one another. I have attended meetings and church events where folks didn’t play well with others. At that moment I am reminded that we are broken, and even I can be out of sorts on a bad day.  

I came away from the bird sanctuary filled with grace. It is a grace I hope to extend to the congregations, sessions, campus ministries, and other institutions I visit. It is a grace I hope to receive as we do the difficult and sometimes contentious work of God’s church together. For truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Take a look at my photos here


Rev. Craig M. Howard