Looking out my living room window this morning, I spied some prairie grass sticking up out of the snow. I had planted the grass in the flower bed around the corner from my window, in a place too sheltered from summer rains to grow much of anything else. The window angle doesn’t give me much of a view of the grass, except for some stalks that have been beaten down and broken by the snowfall. I keep thinking I should go out and remove those stalks to create a tidier clump, but the desire to wade through the snow has evaded me, so so the broken stalks remain.
As I sat there next to the window this morning, praying the daily office, I was distracted by watching a small black and white bird hop over from my neighbor’s nearby bushes and try to eat the grass seeds. This dark-eyed junco would fly up and try to settle onto a stalk so that she could edge out towards the seed heads. Not strong enough to support her weight, the stalks kept dumping her back into the snow. After several tries, she got the idea of hopping up at the broken stalks from the ground in order to strip the seeds from underneath. Success!
This got me thinking about church. How often do we look at our congregations and see broken stalks? How often do we fantasize about shutting down ministries that cannot sustain themselves in the style to which we have become accustomed. How often are we only prevented from pruning away our brokenness by the prospect of cold feet?
And what if, instead, we looked at our situation from below? What if we asked how our brokenness might make us more accessible to folks on the ground? Not everyone can afford to live in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Not everyone can enter the church with self-confidence. Some folks may even need to be told that they are needed to help support a church that cannot support folks on its own.
In my attempt to get you a picture of my feathered friend (who flew away every time I tried to photograph her), I landed on Leora Wenger’s blog, where I found out that “junco” means “bird of bushes or reeds,” in honor of the bird’s preferred habitat. In other words, my scrappy little clump of prairie grass was the conveniently-located cafe for a bush-dweller rather than the last resort of a frustrated gardener.
Likewise, we at Holy Trinity have been learning to stop bemoaning our location on a tough corner in a tough neighborhood. God has put us at the corner of Olive and Prast so that we can be conveniently reached by the folks in our neighborhood who don’t have cars to drive out to the suburbs and wouldn’t fit in there once they arrived. At Holy Trinity, you don’t have to look hard to find a place to sit awhile and some work to be done. Our brokenness puts us within everybody’s reach.