One of the features of our backyard is birdbaths. We have two of them. And with the birdbaths come birds. All kinds of them. While the high flying Canadian Geese and various duck species pass over and ignore the offer of water in our birdbaths, they do attract many other kinds. My wife and I have counted and recorded in the neighborhood of twenty varieties including Blue Jays, Flickers, Doves (both White Wing and Ring Neck) as well as Juncos, Titmouse, Sparrows, Robins, and Starlings.
Of Shakespeare’s fame, Starling is not native to North America but what fun they are. They mostly move in flocks; energetic, enthusiastic, even comical flocks. They can overwhelm the birdbath so as to repel any other type, all other types. Doves, Sparrows, Cardinals, Blue-Jays, Robins all just sit off at a distance on the lines and branches both watching and patiently waiting for the raucous party of bathing and drinking to move on. They do. Calm is restored, that is until the next wave of these excited socially juvenal types arrive again.
There is one Starling, however, that is not in the middle of the party. Not knowing the gender I say “he” has one leg. That is amazing. He struggles to keep his balance on the side of the bath. When I first spotted this one-legged bird I thought, “He will not be around for long.” Disabled wildlife doesn’t normally survive. But there he is, again and again, alone but bathing and drinking and leaning into and hopping on one leg. He always shows up alone. The one leg seems to hamper his socializing but, at my amazement and delight, he always shows up.
I am reminded of the Scripture in Matthew 10:29 where Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” The Father’s care is not a rhetorical thought. It is a statement of fact. It is a statement of assurance. The Father knows and cares for His creation.
This assurance is critical in the life of Jesus’ disciples. It is in this teaching in Matthew 10 that Jesus sends the disciples out in mission. Knowing the battle against the Gospel, against the truth, against love and reality Jesus says, “I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves” (v.16). Just before this Jesus says, “Pray for the Lord to send workers out into the harvest.” Mt 9:38 Then He warns of some very ominous circumstances for the mission; circumstances of which I have little experience but real none-the-less. He says you will be persecuted not only by rulers and governments because of your message of Jesus but that you will be betrayed by family, hated, and some even put to death on His account.
Still, in the midst of these, He sends his followers even though the Father knows. He knows our fear, our hesitation, our argument, and our stumbling. As my one-legged Starling, we struggle but then, borne on wings, we go out wondering how we can, being so crippled. But we go eventually to return again for the essential life-giving and healing water of the Word.
There will come a time when the one-legged Starling will not return. I don’t know how he has made it as long as he has. But one thing of which we can be certain: when my one-legged Starling falls, the Father will know.
In the meantime, being sent, we go.
By Rev. Steve Misch
Mission and Ministry Facilitator, Area A