Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Lunchtime Parable

I had lunch today outside and despite the sticky weather it was actually quite nice.
I'd brought my bible and note book to take in some study time, but since I forgot a pen I decided to just sit and meditate on what I had read this morning. Sitting there eating my sandwich, I thought about the parables that Jesus used to teach us about God and the Kingdom of Heaven. "God doesn’t do enough teaching in parables these days. " I thought to myself.
As I pondered this notion, I noticed the few little sparrows hopping around the courtyard. Birds, I think, Jesus used a lot of bird stories, and I began to recall the ones I could remember. The one that most quickly cames to mind is Luke 12:24,

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

There is also the parable about the farmer scattering seeds. Some fell on the rocks and died without being able to take root. Some fell on the good soil, took root and grew. But some fell on the path and were snatched away by the birds.

And I remembered Elijah, and how God told him he would be fed by the ravens when he was told by God to leave his hometown. What a miraculous way to be fed, especially if you think about it in today’s context. All in all, really a lot of bird stories in the bible.

While reflecting on each of these, I pinched off a piece of my roll and threw it to two sparrows that were now within feet of my table. The two scrambled to claim this free gift but only one ended up with the prize. He snatched the entire chunk up and flew away with it.
“Well now, don’t be so stingy” I say under my breath and I pinched off a second piece and gave it to the slower bird. This bird greedily snatches it up too and starts to fly off, but on his way he drops the bread on the other side of my table and never comes back for it.

Hmm...that seems like it could be a parable. Some people hear the word of God and immediately go take it to the masses. No pondering or questioning, just obeying. While others who are eager at first, snatch up the word but somewhere along the way they drop or lose it. (this kind of sounds like the parable of the seeds on the path too.)

I continued watching the stray bread crumb thinking, “Okay...perhaps I’m taking a stretch here, forcing a story out of something that’s really not all that amazing. I mean- two birds grabbed some bread and flew off. No big wow factor there.”

But I continued to watch the left behind crumb anyway. I assumed that soon enough another greedy bird would fly off with it too. Yet, oddly enough some birds didn't even notice it. They flew right over without noticing the huge snack. Some came, took a little peck, and flew away not enticed by it at all. Again I made some comparisons, some people will never stop to listen to God’s word and therefore will perish without it. Still others, because of free will, will choose to reject it the word, and they too will perish.
As I continued to watch the crumb, there finally came a bird that stayed with it a long while, eating small bites, chewing and swallowing, and eating again. This bird was like the mature Christian, I decided, taking in his daily ration, meditating on it, and then going back for more. “Well Done” I told the bird who stayed there a long time doing this.

When his bird-belly was full, he broke off a bigger piece and flew away with it. “To share the word with others” I thought, and smiled.

I took another bite of my sandwich and began to think I’d seen the whole gamut of Christian-bird examples for the day. And while I ate the remainder of my lunch, a few more birds returned to eat.
"Obviously the mature Christian bird had told them about this crumb and now they were all coming to fellowship around it." I chuckled to myself, amused for taking such writer's liberties with my “parable”.
And then I saw something truly amazing and awe inspiring take place at that little crumb.

Two birds landed side by side. The first one took a few pecks and ate. Meanwhile the second bird, a little smaller, put out his wings and touched the ground with them. He started to do a kind of shake. I don’t know how else to describe it. His wings out, touching the ground, this bird vibrated in a kind of controlled manner. It was weird.

“Oh,” I remembered, “I know what he’s doing...I’ve watched enough Animal Kingdom to recognize this behavior. He’s showing acts of aggression towards that other bird...trying to scare him away by looking bigger than he really is. Greedy little thing!”

But he wasn't, at least I don’t think he was, because as soon as this little bird started to do this odd display, the other bird then hopped right over and FED him a morsel of that crumb, mouth to mouth or rather beak to opened beak. One bird fed another bird!
Each time he got fed, the littlest bird then stopped vibrating and returned to his normal birdy-like stance. But then he would repeat the same motion, and the other bird would stop eating, come over and feed him yet again. I'd never seen anything like that!

Now, you’ll say that this was a mama bird and a baby bird. Yes, quite possibly so. However, why? Why in the world did the mama bird NEED to feed the second bird? The food was RIGHT there on the ground- easy to get to- and just the same as what he was being fed!
Eat it bird! But he wouldn't.

For some reason, the only bites of breadcrumb this bird got at lunch today, were the ones handed to him from that other generous bird, who took the time to stop and feed him when he reacted in that strange manner.....

Now that’s-a parable.

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