This is a picture first shared by a team member at the retreat house I visit twice a year which I have since developed. It seems very relevant to our present circumstances, and I would be grateful for comments and feedback.
The house is in the middle of open countryside and at this time of year you can see the rooks building their nests. It is painstaking work that can take hours. Sometimes the nest falls apart and they have to start again. But they don’t give up, and they keep working at it until the nest is built. And sometimes it is like that with us in ministry. We may feel the nest is falling apart. But our calling is to keep going, to keep persevering, and eventually the nest is built.
How is this done?
First of all, a nest is built from things that are broken and discarded. It’s easy to see how that applies in an inner-city context when you are dealing with many people who feel abandoned by society. But actually if you look at the rooks, you will see that sometimes they purposely break a particular twig off that they want. And that’s a reminder that no matter what our social condition, sometimes the Lord has to break us in order for us to be useful to Him. We say glibly in Lent: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; but it is worth reflecting what that means. It means yielding to God all of our hopes and ambitions and dreams, and allowing Him to do what He wants to do in our lives. I still remember reading that old, old book by Roy Hession, The Calvary Road where he talks about the need for the proud I of self to be bent to the crooked C of Calvary. We don’t, I think, preach and teach enough about brokenness nowadays.
Secondly, a nest is built one twig at a a time. That means that the existing structure has to be neither too loose so that new twigs fall out again, or too tight so there is no space to weave them in. I have been thinking again about what it means to be the body of Christ. It seems to me that if say only 50 or 60% of the congregation turn up on a given Sunday then the body of Christ has an arm or a leg missing, and this is something newcomers can sense. We need to meet more regularly and have tighter fellowship, not to exclude newcomers but to so that we can link them into our structures and offer them the support and help they need in order to become disciples.
And thirdly, the point of a nest is not to be a beautiful nest, but so that it can be the home of new life, to produce more rooks that will one day grow up and build new nests. Yet so often we concentrate on the numbers or on our finances, instead of our core business of preaching the cross of Christ and life in His name. If you look at a rook’s nest it is actually quite an untidy and quite a scruffy thing. But it does the job for which it is designed. What about us as the church?