There was a time in my life when I was no friend of a bee. Today, due to the generosity of a thoughtful church member, I am a keeper of bees. Each morning I walk out to the hive to wish them a good day and every evening I lean in close to the entrance of their home and wish them a good night. I would name them, but there is right at 20,000 of them and it is challenging to tell them all apart. Plus they fly so fast. I never thought insects that sting would bring me such pleasure, but they most certainly do. Selfishly I am hoping to reap some additional benefit this summer in the form of golden honey. I am not sure what to label it – “Parson’s Nectar;” “Biscuit Blessings;” “Samson’s Syrup”?
I am amazed that such a tiny insect – about a half of an inch – can be so wondrously designed. One queen controls the entire colony that by day explores the surrounding landscape. The workers carry on the vital task of pollination, gently filling the hive with pollen, nectar, wax comb and honey. They even talk with each other in a coded dance telling where to find the next great patch of pollen: “past the poplar, left at the geranium, and there you will find a large bed of lantana. Watch out for the creepy guy with a beard.” What amazes me is that these bees by the thousands know to come back home at the end of each day. They know where they belong and how they belong – each with a function and purpose. Wondrous stuff, don’t you think?
The most enduring image of the church is not far from this hive perched in my backyard: a place to belong. Churches have changed dramatically over the centuries. Theology, liturgy, architecture and polity are as diverse as the languages of the nations. And yet all churches need to be places where connections are made and belonging is experienced. Otherwise a church is just another institution on the edge of irrelevancy.
Churches will always be making changes because that is how you survive. Just like a hive that needs to have its frames replaced or a location changed, life moves forward in a flow of progress that is life-giving. One thing, however, must never change. We need to be a place and a people that no matter how far one has traveled, one can always come home and find a place. Through dedication of babies, baptisms of young believers, and tender hugs from aging seniors, church is the one place where no matter who you are, and where you have come from, Christ waits at the door with arms open wide saying, “Welcome home.”
Love is God’s radical vision for humanity. A church may be pardoned if the paint is peeling or the music is staid, but it cannot survive long without a mutuality of trust grounded in unconditional love. Let’s keep on being the church that God envisions.
Grateful for my place in this ecclesiastical hive,