July 2007

At the house where my wife grew up there is an old-fashioned clothesline to which are attached clothespins of various colors, including some that are reddish-pink. My brother-in-law, who now lives in the house, tells about hummingbirds that sometimes buzz the clothespins, thinking the pins are flowers or a feeder.

Dumb birds, we say; can’t tell the difference between a plastic pin and a flower, just because they’re the same color.

But are we really so different sometimes? Aren’t we easily fooled, too? We’re taken in by so much in our culture that promises to satisfy us or looks like the answer we’re been seeking. Try this, do that. Buy a product, look a certain way, get the right job, believe a doctrine, and we’ll be satisfied. But as Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 11, where Paul is talking about deceitful pseudo-apostles: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.”

There’s a lot of inauthenticity and empty promises and fakery out there in the church. To me, the tests we can and should apply as we seek to discern whether a community that purports to be a community of faith is a flower and not a clothespin come from Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The apostles’ teaching focused on Jesus, their fellowship on inclusive love, their breaking of bread on celebrating the presence and gifts of the risen Lord, and their prayers on connecting with the Source of all. That’s a church worth our involvement, a community that will nourish us.

The hummers were taken in for a moment by the clothespin, but flew away then to the feeder. I pray that we, too, will reject the fakes quickly and fly away always to Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Cup of Salvation.

© 2007 by Tom Cheatham


“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” —Jesus

Ever notice how sometimes there’s more gospel in movies than in the typical sermon (including mine)? Up to now, my favorite on that score has been Chocolat. But the new candidate is the current animated film Ratatouille.

The main character, Remy, has an intuitive ability in the kitchen. He’s imaginative, going beyond the standard recipes to create dishes that satisfy the most discriminating palate. He’s been inspired by a famous, now deceased, chef whose motto was “anyone can cook.” Surely Remy belongs at the stove in a fine restaurant.

Trouble is, Remy is a rat. You get the picture. Rat. Restaurant. Not two words that should occur in the same sentence. The chef search committee would take one look at his furry little snout and curly tail and put him on the “D” list. Whatever his gifts, a rat doesn’t belong in the kitchen.

There are all kinds of wonderful messages in the film. But for me, Remy’s story is a parable about how church and society make decisions about who can and should be in leadership. How often do we see gifts, ability, imagination, and intuition get trumped by prejudice, suspicion, and/or rules made by the dominant group on the basis of hoary and unchallenged tradition? Typically in my context (the church) we hear: “You’re a (insert name of favorite maligned or despised group here), you can’t hold a position among us.” Variations: “You’re too young, what can you know? You’re too old, your day is over. You don’t dress correctly or live in the right part of town, your leadership would be an embarrassment to us.”

But the gospel way is different. I imagine Jesus sitting with some friends, talking over cappuccino after seeing Ratatouille. He’s smiling, remembering especially the last scene (no, I’m not going to spoil the ending), then he observes: “Good flick. Reminds me of something I’ve said more than once.”

And all the people said “Amen.”

© 2007 by Tom Cheatham