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Consider the birds of the air

by davesandel on November 14th, 2021

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 14, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Consider the birds of the air

The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Feeding the birds this morning in the warming sun under the big blue Texas sky visible again today, I remarked on their absence. Where are the birds when I need them? But it’s also true that they might ask the same. Where is David when we need him? Those feeders have been empty for days!

Mom’s funeral visitation is next Thursday, her funeral next Friday. At neither venue will the caretakers open the doors and invite in the birds. Perhaps, however, at the Mt. Pulaski Cemetery sometime around noon, the birds will arrive. Perhaps they will perch and sing their various songs on the top of our burial tent, or even along the outside, welcome us as we pull up, solemn and upright in black cars. Our car is white, I guess. But for that moment, we will imagine it black.

Most of the birds are not black, neither do they sing dirge. They don’t change color for our grief, nor do they change their songs. And I, for one, am glad. Surely the rest of us will be too.

I see the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be distressed. You are my inheritance, O Lord!

What do you do on a Sunday afternoon, waiting for a funeral? Our family gatherings are ended for a few days. Church family gathers around us for a spell, a moment of shared sadness, a prayer. Now church is over. The swimming pool is still open. It will be 80 degrees this afternoon. Shall I try the water?

I can sit in silence, perhaps read a psalm or two with Margaret, close my eyes, empty out my mind, receive the Holy Spirit however she wants to appear, share, penetrate, wait with me. There is no hurry, there never was. Those breaths I take without noticing can be more remark-able, and they are, as I think of them. You have more than enough, Margaret tells me. God tells her, and she tells me. All that you needed my hand hath provided … I will provide, and you, my children, will simply breathe the air I give you.

Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins. By one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. With this forgiveness, there is no longer offering for sin.

Mom’s breath became air. She returned it to God, used but not abused, warm for one last moment, then cold, and staying cold. Her thermostat stopped working, because she didn’t need it anymore. Nothing crossed her lips after that, not air, not words, only a last lingering sigh, hello, goodbye, I love you.

Won’t you tell me your name, she might have asked if she’d had words. I imagine the world she began to inhabit in that instant, across the pond, in what we can only see as morning fog. In that moment the fog begins to clear for her. The sun is rising. Birds are singing. What kind of birds can these be? Don’t try to answer, David, just enjoy the question. Birds? In heaven?

Oh, is this heaven? I guess I expected choirs of angels … but birds?

Mom, I bet you can get over that expectation more quickly than you think.

Of course I can. Let me see. I remember Psalm 41 … no, that’s about deer. How about Psalm 50? “I know every bird in the mountains, even the insects in the fields are mine.”

Jesus said, Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. Listen: this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Mom’s wellspring of remembered poetry, as well as sermons, inspirational discourses, and much more that she read in her lifetime, must be standing her in good stead. Consider the birds, Mom.

There are joys that long to be ours. God sends 10,000 truths, which come about us like birds seeking sanctuary, but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sing and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away. I know Mom read some of Henry Ward Beecher’s sermons. We sang “I’ll Fly Away” at Dad’s funeral. She wept. Now she might well be watching along with him, as we listen for the songs of the air.

And Charles Spurgeon:

Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls. We suffer today, but we shall rejoice tomorrow.

And all manner of things shall be well.

 (Daniel 12, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10, Luke 21, Mark 13)

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