For this installment I would like to share with you a moment from the life of Scott Alexander, former minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (Unitarian Universlist).
Scott is a slender, blond, medium-height fellow and he told the following story at a preaching conference.
Scott was sitting in his office, toward the end of the day when a parishioner, whom I will call Gus, came in.
Now, Gus was a big burly, lumberjack-style of man, with a full beard and plaid shirt. He never said much, often wore a sour expression, and had not been around the church too much except for services. Frankly, lots of folks were a little scared of him.
Gus came into the office and motioned for Scott to follow him.
"Come on," he said, "I'm gonna take you for a ride."
Scott gulped. But he was new to that parish, and besides, he was working on a sermon about Trust.
So even though he was a little nervous, he followed Gus out to the parking lot.
And there, sitting in the minister's parking space, was the oldest, most beat-up looking truck Scott had ever seen. It had no fenders, several different colors of paint and was missing all its windshields.
Gus went over and untied the rope on the passenger door so it could open and he motioned for Scott to climb in.
Scott did so, all the time praying that it wouldn't start, because he was getting more nervous by the second, but alas, it started right up and jerked merrily out of the parking lot.
They drove in silence for several miles, Scott's teeth clenched as he white-knuckled the door, especially after he noticed he could see the road underneath his feet where the floorboard had rusted through.
The road turned into trail down through the woods and then it seemed to disappear altogether. They drove down, twisting and turning in the woods, until Scott was completely disoriented.
Gus found a clearing in the woods. He pulled up and got out of the truck and motioned for Scott to do likewise.
Scott crawled out of the truck, wondering vaguely if there had been any recent reports of ax murders in the area. He looked around, but all he could see were the tops of trees behind him and a downward slope ahead of him.
Gus turned away and made some sort of whistling sound.
Scott heard a noise, not quite like anything he had ever heard before.
It started as a soft rustling from far away. But as Scott looked back over the tree-tops, the noise got louder and louder, and the tree-tops seemed to be moving, to be falling slowly, like an enormous waterfall, falling down the hill toward them.
And then the first emissaries of the waterfall arrived.
And all of a sudden, it wasn't scary any more. The tree-top waterfall was really made up of small, fluffy, flying things.
As Scott peered at a grinning Gus, he saw that the fluffy flying things were Chickadees, lots and lots of Chickadees. Tiny little birds, not big enough to cover your hand, yet they flew straight toward Gus and landed on his outstretched arms, hands, on his head and shoulders. Multitudes of Chickadees landing in perfect trust and love on this big man who frightened people.
Gus had been feeding and protecting them for years.
Scott reported that in that moment, something was altered. It was as if scales fell from his eyes and he could see clearly the wonder and transcendence all about him. Gus, standing in the clearing, covered with birds, and laughing.
For years afterwards, he and Gus shared a friendship, but Scott never forgot that moment when time stopped and he saw those birds, those Chickadees, creating a living mantle on a big, laughing man who loved them and kept them safe.