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Return to 1st Quarter 2022 articles.

The title of this article is 'Look at the Birds,' with sea gulls in the sky.

“Look at the birds of the air.” That is a simple imperative statement from the magnificent Sermon on the Mount. While some folks imagine themselves as being sensitive and responsive to all the commands from their Lord, they read over this one with no intention of obeying it. The good news is that Jesus never intended it to be another command that demands obedience. However, it is a statement that can encourage people to orient their minds toward the incomprehensible splendor of what makes this universe tick.

A mountain river flows through a coniferous forest.

If modern Christianity put more emphasis on looking at the birds of the air and less on an air of economic importance, atheism would be less appealing to some. Likewise, if the religious people tied a sense of the awesomeness of the fabric of the universe, from subatomic particles to billions of galaxies, into their personas, the word "religion" would not be so hollow and distasteful.

Few know that God, as understood from the Bible, said, “… the land is mine, and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers” (Leviticus 25:23). If you have ever loaned out any item of property that was disrespected and abused, that statement should cause you to look back at the footprint you have left upon the face of the sod you have trod. One prophet wrote, “Is it not enough for you to feed on good pasture? Must you trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clean water? Must you muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18–19). Do birds sing in the footprint you leave, or do you just leave a contribution to a “Superfund” site?

Berkeley Pit and snow geese.

Fifty years ago, Sally and I lived in Butte, Montana. Huge trucks were hauling copper ore out of the massive Berkeley Pit. After the mining ended, the pit became a toxic lake. The hole covers nearly half a square mile of surface and is 1,780 feet deep. The water is now around 900 feet deep and laden with toxic chemicals. Normally during migration, birds are hazed from the lake, but in 2016, over 3,000 snow geese died after landing on the lake. While people thought that copper was expensive, they did not begin to pay the cost of one of our largest Superfund sites. Some of the water now goes through a treatment plant and is released into a creek. Hopefully, local groundwater will be spared contamination. That is an example of how we muddy the water.

“Look at the birds of the air” was never intended to recruit people to participate in a bird count, but it has heart and soul. It has a meaning that can bring together the sense of a spiritual God and a physical universe. It can stir our hearts to sing, “This Is My Father's World.” Or at least, it should cause us to pause and wonder in awe. In his “Bird and the Machine” essay, agnostic Loren Eiseley penned, “… I'll stick with the birds. It's life I believe in, not machines.” So take a look, and you might even see a spiritual reality.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© Davidovici. Image from big stock.com
© Bodnar Robert. Image from big stock.com
© McKinneMike. Image from big stock.com

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.