We’ve been watching the fall finches for a couple of weeks. I don’t know where they go in mid-summer, but spring and fall brings them to our feeders by the dozens. They jostle each other for position and have no hesitation about knocking each other off the desired perch, or even body-checking in mid-air in order to keep each other from landing. The prescribed penalty box seems to be the top of the feeders where there are no seeds. They are intent, and our dogs wandering in and out of the house don’t appear to faze them much. I wonder if finch feeding is what gave Charles Schultz the idea for bird hockey games played on the frozen rink of the birdbath with Snoopy as the coach. As far as I can tell, the main difference between finch feeding and hockey is the lack of bench clearing fights. That and the lack of sticks, puck, scoring and referees, but those are minor points.
Well, that’s the end of that profound thought. Maybe I’m not getting enough oxygen.
I have a birdhouse just outside my study window. It’s busy with the coming and going of adult sparrows laying, hatching and feeding chicks, and juvenile sparrows trying to discover life on the outside. Over the course of a summer a nesting pair in my birdhouse might hatch a couple dozen chicks. We have a second one on the other side of the yard, so one might expect that we would be overrun by Hitchockian swarms of sparrows. In fact there are quite a few for weeks at a time, but eventually they all fly off somewhere, and we are left with only a few from fall through winter. Where do they all go? I imagine that most of them die before spring comes again. A sparrow’s life can appear very cheap indeed.
Matthew said that two sparrows were sold for a penny. Luke waged a price war with five sparrows for two pennies. They were the cheap animals that the poor could afford as an acceptable substitute to the more expensive sacrificial lamb; the throw away animal for the throw away people. But not in God’s eyes. Matthew and Luke agree at least on this, that not one of them will fall to the ground apart from God, and that we are more valuable than many sparrows. We are not more valuable because of our faith or how we express it. We are more valuable because we are God’s beloved creatures. That’s all and that’s enough.
If God cares enough for the lives of sparrows that not one would die apart from God’s love, why do we find make it so difficult to accept how much God loves us? Time and again I have counseled with persons who were taught from childhood that they were sinners already condemned to burn for eternity in hell by a wrathful God, and their only hope was to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, yet constantly warned that they were always on the verge of losing whatever grace might flow to them through him. In trembling fear they are more certain of their damnation than their salvation. What rot! The damage done in childhood by incompetent preachers can take a lifetime to overcome, and it is shameful.
Jesus himself said that he did not come to condemn but to save, not to take life but to give it in abundance, not incite fear but to endow love. We are reminded that while were yet sinners knowing nothing of God’s intent, Christ was sent to us. We are sinners yet, and we are called to a life of confession, repentance and renewal through Jesus Christ, but it is not a life motivated by fear. It is a life motivated by the love that God has poured out upon us and continues to pour out upon us, undeserving as we might be.
I guess this sounds like a diatribe, and I guess it is because I’d like to see more energy put into sharing the good news of God in Christ with those who have never heard it than trying to heal the wounds of those who have heard it wrong.
It’s time to take on The Flicker again. Some readers may need to be reminded of a number of posts chronicling my battle with the persistent flicker who invaded my house late last summer, pecked a hole high up in the exterior wall, and took up winter residence therein. Steve the contractor came over this week to work out some plans for better insulation, and while he was at it also took on the repair of the flicker hole, a nest of starlings inside a vent, and some miscellaneous issues up on the roof. What he found in the garage attic was a flicker nest the size of a dog bed. That bird had made him/herself a four star Ritz Carlton hideaway, now occupied by more starlings on a sublet. A little cleaning, a little patching, a little carpentry to take away any place to perch and peck, and I can confidently assert that, as of this evening, we have no more flicker and/or starling nests in our house. I can start removing their outside wall decorations soon. Whether it stays that way is another question altogether. Tomorrow the insulation people show up to do whatever it is that they do, which has nothing to do with flickers or starlings, but it’s supposed to keep us warmer in winter, cooler in summer and save on utility bills. They way I figure it, the flicker will just consider this a Ritz Carlton renovation designed especially for him/her.
Regular readers will recall several posts about my flicker – the flicker that pecked a large hole in the side of my house and took up winter residency. Apparently he/she is now intent on creating a duplex, because he/she is busy working on another flicker sized hole. Now I’m a peaceable man and not prone to violence, but I’m seriously thinking of buying an air rifle to aid in, how shall I say it, serving a rather abrupt eviction notice. As Rachel Maddow says, I need to be talked down on this.