Learning by example from the sparrows

Debbie Linville - Contributing Columnist

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29

Sometimes in the world of theology and religious study we can really over complicate things when we seek to explain the love that our Lord has for us and how we might show our gratitude for that undeserved love.

Multitudes of volumes have been written and preachers have gone on for endless hours as we attempt to explain the unexplainable. I have read more than a couple of those volumes of explanation and, as my congregation will attest, I have been that endless preacher on more than one occasion.

This past week, however, I found some answers to the question of how much God loves us and how we should respond to that love in an unlikely place. The preachers who imparted this knowledge spoke not a word. They quoted not a single phrase from a book or scholarly treatise.

The place of my enlightenment was the bird feeder in my back yard and my teachers were the sparrows.

Our bird feeder attracts a wide variety of birds, who provide a dazzling display from dawn to dusk. Cardinals, blue jays, doves, finches, woodpeckers, robins and many others come by to feed and to be a part of the daily drama.

Cardinals are very selective and eat only the best, coming in with a flourish and saying to all, “make way for me; since I am so good looking I deserve to eat first and eat the best.” Blue jays and woodpeckers are bullies. Doves and finches are cool. Robins seem entitled as the heralds of spring.

The pecking order is clear and observed to the letter. However, the largest group of feeders and the most persistent of diners are clearly on the bottom of the guest list. The sparrows wait their turn, coming in when other birds have had their fill and left. The sparrows are willing to eat the seeds that fall to the ground and eat with a fervent relish that shows that they are both hungry and grateful.

This is just like the humble Christian who comes to realize that love and forgiveness that comes from God through our Lord, Jesus Christ, is all that is really needed to live a meaningful life. After the fashionable and flashy have had their day in the sun, after the loud bullies have had their say and the cool and elite have made their entrances, humble Christians see what is truly needed to make a happy life and feast on the knowledge of God’s love.

Cardinals and blue jays, when they come to feed, come alone. If another cardinal or blue jay joins them, they will chase them off. Me first is the doctrine of the day. Sparrows come in groups and as they are eating, more come to join in the feast. There is always enough for all. Christians who learn of God’s love grow within their hearts when their communities grow in number.

Doves cruise by and case out the feeder before landing. Finches flit around for several minutes to be sure all is safe. “One cannot be too careful” seems to be their mantra. In the morning, when I go out to fill the feeder, the sparrows begin diving into the seed while I am just a few feet away. They take chances and seem to know that not a minute is to be wasted.

This is the day that the Lord has made and they make the most of it now. We need this attitude toward our life. We wait for the perfect conditions, put things off until we are sure of the outcome; when we should be joyful in the moment and give ourselves up to glory in God’s creation today.

Sparrows feed when others fear. Sparrows confidently share their good fortune. Sparrows live in the glorious moment God has created and worry not for tomorrow.

They do all of this because they know that God is watching out for them. They know He cares for them. They know they have value in the eyes of God and that is all that matters. If each of us lived in this way, we would live a life of meaning and contentment.

It is not that hard to do. Even a sparrow can do it.

Debbie Linville is Pastor of Presbyterian Church of Wilmington.

Debbie Linville

Contributing Columnist