Where do you build your nest?
We just finished up VBS this week. The kids learned stories and songs every day to learn a specific lesson each day…
And finally… God Sends
Our reading from Psalm 84:3 reads… Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Entrusting your children to the Lord. VBS, SS, FK, etc.
A show I used to watch chronicled the mis-adventures of a misfit crew at a community college. The sitcom featured a study group made up of broken dream stories… a lawyer who had faked his college credits, a high school athlete who lost his scholarships due to injury, a recovered drug addict, a poor immigrant, a hippie without direction, a stay at home second career mom, and a retiree.
In one particularly moving episode, the young poor immigrant, a young man with Asperger’s, expressed a desire to take a film course. His falafel salesman father did not want his hard earned money to go to such trivial pursuits and forbade it. Despite the counsel of the lawyer (father to the study group), the well-meaning hippie offered to pay for the course so he could follow his dreams. Not being a parent herself, she was dismayed when he spent the money not just on the course, but new camera equipment, props, and so forth. He had completely exasperated his study group parents by the end and caused a major head to head between his real father and his adopted study group surrogates.
The main thrust of the story was an argument over who had Abed’s best interests at heart, and whether he should be allowed to choose to follow his gifts and talents to where he felt called. And there was no clear right answer. Until the end. Abed shared his final project, his film. In it, he captured the arguments of his adopted parents, a story clearly repeated from his childhood with his biological parents, a story of how people could not accept Abed for Abed, a very unusual and challenged, but creative boy. His real father cried. He turned to the study group parents and said, “My boy has trouble expressing himself. If movies help him to do that, I will pay for the classes. With medical school as a backup!” You see, Abed’s father knew the risks. The risks of stifling his son’s calling. And the risks of a world in which he’d worked so hard to provide for his own son.
Question is not where your children will/should go after they leave the nest.
Where do you build your nest?
We build our nest where we nurture our young, where we spend our time and where they learn.
Is your nest at school? Is it on a ball field? A theater? In your car? In front of a screen?
(Graphic – nest pie chart)
Building your nest on the altar of the Lord or the Altar of something else?
Who or what will they serve after their time there? Who or what will they serve after their time there?
Building your nest on the altar of the Lord is not without danger…
Any altar you build your nest on carries risk… If it is only the altar of education, they run the risk of pursuing a career that is overcrowded or becomes obsolete or is a bad fit for them.
If it is only the altar of athletics, they run the risk of severe injury, or sudden elimination, expulsion, failure, or fatigue.
If it is only the altar of recreation or relaxation, they run the risk of never contributing to the needs of others with their resources and time, prioritizing themselves.
Now, the expectation of our God is not that we have no interests or involvements outside the faith community. Education is highly valued among us Presbyterians for our ability to critically think, to study scripture and our world and to grow in understanding and wisdom and obedience. Athletics provide ways to appreciate and nurture our bodies, to teach us a sense of competition and fair play, cooperation and teamwork, and to strive to reach our own greatest potential. And recreation and relaxation can give us time to gather with loved ones, to regain our energy and inspiration for the callings God gives us.
But when we give them too much power and priority through our commitments, or let them crowd out tending to our faith and our callings to serve, we trade involvement for idolization. We build our nests on other altars.
Now here’s where it gets really hard. We Presbyterians don’t use the word altar very much. Anyone know why? Where is our altar in here? Our youth can tell you.
We don’t have one! WHAT is an altar? It’s where a sacrifice is offered. Christ was the final sacrifice. We don’t make offerings of animals or plants any more. We have a table. Not an altar. So the idea of the Lord’s altar in metaphorical sense may need to be put into context. It’s a place of sacrifice.
We either sacrifice our time or energy or money or imagination and effort or our very bodies. And when we sacrifice those things, we sacrifice ourselves, our loyalty. God asks for all our heart and mind and strength. And we demonstrate that loyalty by giving a portion of our resources and time. When we squeeze out that 10% tithe because we budget in more expenses… when we squeeze out our one day out of seven to fit in more activities… when we relegate God to our leftover money, and part of a Sunday or one or two mornings a month… we build our nests on other altars.
But to make those sacrifices on the Lord’s altar does not eliminate risk. Our children at VBS this week learned that God creates, God Helps, God Loves, and God Calms. But then God also sends. God sends us into our world to be a light in dark places, to confront our enemies and our friends in the poor decisions they make or want us to participate in, to fight injustice when we see it, and to look for it, to think others first and ourselves last, to travel to the places and people of need, no matter the peril, and to invite those in need into our lives, into our homes. In point of fact, the altar of the Lord may be the most dangerous place to build your nest.
So why on earth would the swallow build her nest on the altar of the Lord??? Why should you? Because this is not all that there is. Because we are people of eternity not bound for this world only, but a home and a life and a love beyond this world and the altars in it.
Because your children are builders for eternity. Because when you build your nest on the altar of the Lord, it will guide them when they leave the nest. It will be the biggest influence on their future nests and where they build them.
Where have you built your nest? How can you build your nest on the altar of the Lord, how can you be like the mother swallow who offers her young to the Lord? Every parent or grandparent or neighbor who brought a child to VBS has gathered twigs to build a part of their nest. When parents bring their children consistently to worship and to First Kids and Youth, and not just when it fits into a hectic schedule or leftover time, they are building their nest on the altar of the Lord.
Some of you have empty nests, some of you are parents and mentors to the children of this place. Some of you help parents build their nest on the altar by teaching Windows to Worship or Confirmation. Some of you cook meals every week for children who come to First Kids. You are people who know that every family needs help to build their nest. In this world, it’s too hard to build it alone. You know that shouting across the park to other parents to do a better job is not the way to help them. They need this place and space. They need childcare and meals and financial resources and words of encouragement to build their nests where their children will learn of God’s love and God’s call on their lives to every broken place.
It's summer, and this year’s VBS is over. But the TWAM mission trip is approaching, and when the fall arrives, there will be weekly worship and weekly gatherings for our children and youth. In order to build a firm foundation of faith for the rest of our children’s lives and to build our nests on the altar of the Lord, those of you with children will need to bring them each week. And everyone will need to volunteer as there is need, to pitch in, and… to pray daily for the children and families of our children and youth ministries. Can you all commit to that? Don’t say yes unless you mean it. Where will you build your nest? [On the altar of the Lord] Tell your neighbor. Where will you build your nest? [On the altar of the Lord] The next time you’re asked to change your priorities or make smaller your offering to God in time or energy, tell someone you are building your nest… on? [On the altar of the Lord]