I love honeybees. They clean the hive and feed the young. As they grow older, they build the honeycomb cells and begin to forage for nectar. That’s when I meet them — pollinating my garden plants. Back at the hive, they perform a dance, recruiting other foragers to follow them to my garden with their grocery list for their honey recipe. These same bees will eventually stop foraging and start scouting out, building a new hive for a new brood of bees to continue the cycle. When honeybees visit my garden on their missions, they are friendly. I can gently brush them aside when I need to and I have yet to be stung. They are single-minded.
Honey bees remind me of the committed core of people in the Calvary family – cleaning, feeding, foraging, dancing, scouting and building. They are friendly and single-minded. They are Calvary’s workers.
I love butterflies too. Butterflies are rare and beautiful and wary. When the occasional butterfly flits to my garden, I treat them much differently than my honey-bee friends. I can’t simply brush them aside as I work. In fact, I can’t get close enough to brush them aside. My only hope of close-up exposure is a sneak up approach. I am far more successful with species prone to perch than those prone to migrate. When I wondered why some are so brightly colored and some so blend-in drab, I was told the bright colors invite plant-eaters and the camouflage invite insect eaters to dine elsewhere. I’ve also wondered why I have seen pictures of butterflies perching on people. Wikipedia informed me that some species land to satisfy an intense craving for salt most easily found in human sweat. I have to take this by faith, as I sweat hard in my garden and no butterfly has ever landed on me.
Butterflies remind me of the fragile and wary people who flit into Calvary on any given week. Unlike honeybees who forage nectar to feed others, butterflies gather nectar to feed themselves – their visit is about them. Though they don’t have antenna sticking out of their heads, like butterflies they are probing for embarrassing situations, unexpected movements, early capture, or even the whiff of hypocrisy. Some flit in and are so different they stick out like a sore thumb. Others utterly disappear into the crowd because they are so like us. While some come and go without so much as saying ‘Hello,’ most, I believe, are taking a risk because of a soul-deep craving for Christ and authentic community. They are fragile, wary, and beautiful.
I love night crawlers. As a kid I picked them (yes, picked. – you don’t dig night crawlers) and sell them along Highway 169 on Friday nights to the fishing fanatics heading to the lake. Picking night crawlers is a challenge, which is why you shell out $4 a dozen at a bait shop. You need a decent rain, a good flashlight, fast reflexes, and lots of luck. The light rain flushes these large creatures to the surface. A good flashlight sometimes helps you see their glistening wet dark gray bodies through the grass (they can be a foot long). Fast reflexes means you are able to grab them with your thumb and index finger faster than they can spring down the hole. Luck means between your footsteps and the shining of your light, they are not already down the hole before you can get to them.
Night crawlers remind me of the people who are mowing their yards, reading the newspaper, or taking jog on Sunday mornings when honey bees and butterflies gather together at Calvary. In my experience, there is very little a church can do to get night crawlers out of their holes and under the teaching of the word and the fellowship of God’s people on Sunday. That will take the light and heavy rains of life – a broken marriage, a teenager going off the deep end, a shattering diagnosis, the death of a loved one. The best way to reach night-crawlers is not for us to invite them to church (they’ll spring down their holes), but for each of us to be the church — light in our extended families, workplaces, and neighborhoods when real life forces them out of their dark holes.
So what does this all have to do with our theme of having compassion for people as the hands and feet of Jesus? Well, three things. First, let’s do a great job of letting the honey-bees among us know how appreciated they are by us. Where would we be as a church family if not for these committed workers who clean, feed, forage, dance, and build new hives among us? Let’s develop the habit of saying ‘Thank you’ to at least one worker bee every single time we enter the Calvary hive. And let’s not forget that when we say one of our priorities is to bring ‘all to ministry,’ we are saying that every follower of Jesus in the Calvary family is intended to be a worker bee.
Second, consider how we need to think and what we need to do to make Calvary a safe place for the fragile and wary ‘butterflies’ to land. The Assimilation Ministry Team has been looking at all the ways we unintentionally make Calvary a scary place for the wary to land and perch. We are brainstorming better signage and better trained welcome guides to help our wary guests find their way around. We are considering how to reserve seating to butterflies that flit in late so they don’t have to crawl over people in front rows to get a seat. We want to help inform each of us how to better understand and approach these delicate creatures to make them feel valued and safe he while they consider if Calvary is a place to perch.
Third, we need a more compassionate heart for the night crawlers in our individual worlds. When the rains of trouble come, and they always do, these precious people will come out of their holes looking for a way to survive. Each of us have the responsibility as apprentices of Jesus to be ready with the light and a gentle yet persuasive presentation of the Gospel, as God uses our hands to pluck them from the Kingdom of Darkness.