Alone in the silence of birdsong: Jesus' invitation amidst crisis

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

As I sit in the warming glow of the still early hours of the morning, I hear the birds outside, chirping and fluttering and singing - blissfully unaware of the global pandemic facing human beings at this current moment. This birdsong - unchanged from a few months ago - reminds me of Jesus's words (in Matt 6:26-34):


Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Each day has enough trouble of it's own.


Hmmph. That seems about right in the world today.


I don't always know what to do with such words from Jesus; he seems to ignore the fact that many people (including many who are 'seeking first the kingdom') do in fact go without food or shelter. I struggle to worship a God who's only aware of the privileged - those that are not seriously faced with homelessness or real hunger. I need a God who really, truly cares about everyone, in all situations. The God of the Privileged just doesn't seem right to me. Nor does it seem in tune with so much of the Bible where God is deeply concerned for the socially powerless, the culturally forgotten, the medically sidelined.


So, today, I just trust that these words from the Nazerene Rabbi are an invitation to live in the 'today'. That surely doesn't mean not planning at all for the future, not stewarding resources today for flourishing (or survival?) tomorrow. Surely these verses can't be a call to do away with vision and strategy and careful stewardship?


I wonder if these words invite us to experience today, today. If it means finding ways to really sit in the present moment. To halt the continuous rush of our brains and hearts back to what was or forwards to what will be. Maybe this invitation isn't a call to always ignore the pain and loss and suffering we face as human beings. Maybe these words open up an alternative to our rampant espcapism, at which our culture seems artfully adept. I wonder if, embedded in Jesus' words, sits a call to sit amidst all that we hold and carry and face in this current moment. To sit with it, and with God.


Maybe this includes really fully feeling the present pain of our pandemic: the universal loss, the significant and valid concern for friends, loved ones, neighbours near and far.


But perhaps Jesus' words include an invitation to celebrate and affirm all that is good and noble and delight-worthy right now. As I think about it, there's a truth to be found in Jesus' words: the woman caught up in only worry about paying the mortgage tomorrow forgoes enjoying the home today; the man consumed with anxiety about tomorrow's grocery bills relinquishes delight in the meal before him.


These thoughts need balance and counter thoughts and nuance. Somehow, learning to live in the present moment should not be an escape from reality, but a deep dive into it. Learning to feel what it means to be besouled bodies, embodied souls, living right now in this present moment, delighting in all that is delight-worthy should not be an ignorance or avoidance of all that is truly concerning and fearful and sad. And, somehow, our pursuit of being present can't be at the sacrifice of wise planning and preparation and stewardship. Nor loving our neighbours.


But this morning... For me now.... As I've prayed for the world, my global and local neighbours, my loved ones near and far, our leaders and NHS workers and other key workers... I let the chirping birds bring me back to the present moment: the sun rising, the cool crisp morning air cutting through the window slightly ajar above my head, my back against this soft and embracing cushion, my feet warmed by woolly slippers resting on the floor, grounded. Grounded in this moment.


I sit here in the in-between: not yet day, no longer night.

Dawn.

The waking world slowly rising around me to new challenges that await.

I sit, alone. Sensing the God who is present with me.

Now.

and with you

now.

Not only in our tomorrow, but in the very centre of now's nowness.

In the midst of crisis, Immanuel - God with us.

In some moments, this is not enough for me: I want rescue!

salvation from our viral Egypt,

parted waters.

Safe dry ground.

A way out.

But in other moments, in this moment, I find God - almost inexplicably, undescribably... enough.

I sit here in the silence, alone. With God. With the birds.