Look At The Birds
Matthew 6: 26-29
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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
Look at the Birds
“Look at the birds.” I have said those words in the last few days as the birds have returned to the feeders in our backyard. Some of the birds I recognize from last year, and others are new.
In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers the suggestion that we “look at the birds.” He is offering some thoughts on faith, and on how we should not worry about things, because God will provide.
He offers the suggestion not only to make a point about having faith in the midst of our worry, but also because he wants us to take the time to look. Just take the time to look. It’s not just about the birds; it’s also about us – and our opportunity to focus not on ourselves but on the evidence of God around us.
Evelyn Underhill was a 20th century English writer known for her numerous works on spiritual practice. In her classic work, The Spiritual Life, she offers thoughts on this topic, saying it this way:
We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual – even on the religious plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having, and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.
Underhill goes on to say:
Many people feel unaware of any guidance, unable to discern or understand the signals of God; not because the signals are not given, but because the mind is too troubled, clouded, and hurried to receive them.
We can relate to the mind being clouded and troubled. In the midst of the pandemic, we are experiencing unaccustomed levels of deprivation and the anxiety that goes with it.
In personal terms, the question can be asked, “What are we doing without?”
Maybe our deprivation is only minor – and we are only doing without the minor things, such as our favorite Starbucks drink, restaurant dining, paper goods, a haircut.
Or perhaps we have a more serious level of deprivation; missing human contact, experiencing isolation, and lacking the ability to communicate with others right now.
Or maybe we have the most serious level, where we are missing the really important things – our full health or the full health of someone we love dearly. Maybe our worries are overwhelming right now. Maybe there is absence of the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the ones we love will make it through all of this unharmed. For some of us the darkness is real and we cannot trivialize it or dismiss it right now.
But we can ask another question. We can also ask “What are we NOT doing without?”
What are we not doing without? Many things are in abundance right now. The evidence of God is all around us. God is evident in the knowledge that we can all grow from this. God is evident in the examples of bravery demonstrated by all those who care for others with passion and at risk to themselves. God is evident in the spirit of sacrifice that will help us to save as many lives as we can and in the many, many little kindnesses and small acts of mercy and care that we see daily.
And in the birds, in the lilies of the field, and the beauty of the world around us.
Underhill cautions us that “for lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.”
So the word for the day is that God provides. God’s mercies are all around and we need only take the time to look. Jesus said it this way; “Seek and you shall find. Ask and you shall receive.”
The old hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” offers these verses:
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love
Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
God's mercies are new each day. God is with us, and God is all good, all the time. Amen