Sister Bird

Sister Bird May 30, 2024

First, I thought something had fallen. Then I thought someone had come into the church annex through the back door. “Hello?” I called tentatively. No one answered. Getting up from the desk in the pastor’s study, I looked around the lower floor. There was a shadow behind a curtain. I guessed correctly what it was.

The juvenile bird began frantically flying to get away from me. When she finally settled, she eyed me. I am not the world’s best birder. But it is difficult to mistake a tree swallow especially when one knows a family of them were nesting nearby on the overhead lights of the building.

Wild Bird Indoors

The well worn preacher’s joke about a bird loose in the sanctuary came to mind when I considered how to get her outside the building. How do I get rid of this bird loose in the church? Ask it to place membership or join a committee.

I decided to catch the her instead of attempting to open a door or window and “shoo it outside.” Trying not to panic her anymore, I let her alone for a few minutes. One must be careful how to grab a bird. It has a lot of delicate bones, especially in the wings. I once rescued a starling and took her to a wildlife rehabilitator who told me there was nothing to be done because of where the wing had broken. I took hold of the swallow and took it outside where to my relief, she flew back toward the nest.

Fowl Teaching

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Jesus scolds his listeners for being worried over life’s basic needs. He asks, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Admittedly, this is true. Yet, we provide food for the hungry and clothing for those in need. We look down on people who would go around “naked as a jaybird.”

While Jesus could have said simply, “Do not worry about food and clothing.” He does not do so. “Look at the birds” and “consider the lilies of the field” are also instructions for contemplation. A bird teaches many virtues as I have shown on another occasion. Birders are painstakingly patient people. They wait for some sign of a bird. If they hear one, they will carefully look for it. In this way, birders and hunters use the same skills. Birds eat enough when they eat. They keep their feathers clean. And some species are known to meticulously clean their nests.

Birds and Empathy

A bird will care for its young. Sometimes, they care for the young of other species. But this is not compassion we are told. Birds do not show empathy. So how do we learn this virtue from them? Mammals can be compassionate and empathetic. We learn the virtue of empathy by imagination. Jesus instructs his followers to consider – to imagine life in a different way. If I do not focus my attention on a task or getting it done immediately, I realize a greater need is in front of me. My Sunday sermon has to wait. This small bird could die in this building. It is suffering.

If such small delicate creatures warrant our help because God cares for them, what about the lilies of the field? Ecological thought helps us understand the interconnectivity of life. Is human life of more value? Jesus asks the question of us. Yet, human life is only sustained by the lives of the rest of Creation.

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