Summary: In this response to the prophetic call of Haggai 1:3-8, the church is called to leave places of comfort and risk loving those in the world who desperately need to be reached.
Robert J. Tennant
Greenbrier Baptist Church, October 15, 2000
There once was a man named Jeff. Did you catch that? I said, “There once was a man …”. What does it mean when someone says, “there once was a man”? It means I am telling, ah yes, a parable. This is a parable. The characters represent something else, something bigger than themselves. What could that be? I wonder. … Now where was I?
There once was a man named Jeff who wanted to build a bird feeder in his backyard. He wasn’t going to buy a bird feeder at a hardware store or pet store. He spent a lot of time imagining what the ideal bird feeder would be like. He drew up his own design. He purchased all of the wood, nails, and paint that he would need. He even bought some birdseed to be ready to fill it as soon as he finished it. It was October and he thought, I’ll be able to have this thing up by Halloween.
He had all of his equipment, he had his designs together, and he was ready to go to work. It was a Monday afternoon and he was going to get started right after he got home from his job. As he was getting ready to leave the office, his boss came in. After a brief exchange, his boss chewed him out and told him was close to getting fired. He left feeling terrible. As he pulled into the driveway at home, he ran over one of his eight-year-old daughter’s toys. It was a toy she always wanted, and had received for her birthday just last week. He was greeted inside by his extremely angry 14-year-old son Sidney. Sidney was holding the science project his father had helped him complete. “I got a ‘D’ Dad. You said you knew exactly what you were doing when you helped me. A ‘D’! Thanks for the help!” Jeff sat down in his chair and stared out the window at the place he was planning to build his birdfeeder. He sat there staring until dark, enveloped in his own unworthiness.
A few days later, Jeff was ready to get started on that bird feeder. He went outside with the materials to begin building. The fall air was crisp, and he felt really good inside. As he was about to pound the first nail, his neighbor James yelled over the fence to him. “Hi Jeff.” He got up and went to talk to his friend. James, nearly 75 years old, had lived in the neighborhood for over 50 years. He shook his head and talked about how the neighborhood was going downhill – fast. There were gangs and drugs and a lot of pollution. The county had done a major clean-up project last year, which Jeff thought did a lot of good, but James just shook his head and said it wasn’t worth the effort. Things weren’t the same. They talked until it was almost dark out. Jeff decided he wouldn’t get to start on the birdfeeder that evening after all.
Another week went by, and Jeff missed his Halloween deadline. So, he set his goal to get the bird feeder –which as of yet had not been started – done by Thanksgiving. He got home from work hoping to get started, but when he went to pull in the driveway, he was surprised to see his wife’s car in front of the house. She usually got home after him. When he went in she was in tears. “I was really upset after our conversation at lunch time.” They had had an argument over the phone. “This always happens,” she said. “I can’t take it anymore.” So, they talked and talked and finally set up an appointment with a counselor. No work on the birdfeeder that evening.