Summary: No matter how difficult circumstances become, we know that the God who keeps tracks of each and every sparrow will never forget us.
A Sparrow Sings at Starbucks”
October 22, 2006
I have told you before that Toni and I have fallen in love with Aruba. Aruba sits about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela and is 19 miles long and only six miles across at it widest point. The western shore has some of the best beaches in the world. You find miles of white sand, gentle surf, palm trees, resorts, and tourists. The interior of the island reminds me of the desert southwest of the United States with cactus, arid mountains, dusty trails, and lizards the size of house cats.
The eastern coast is wild and rocky. The surf relentlessly pounds the shore and salt spray is always in the air. We love both sides of the island. We always seem to find ourselves at the same spot on the far northeast tip of the island. After walking across about a half mile of white sand dunes, you reach these huge boulders which were deposited there, who knows how many eons ago, by unknown geological forces. It is a beautiful place to sit looking out to sea to take pictures.
This is obviously a favorite spot for many others as well. The beach is littered with trash: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cast off diapers, all sorts of stuff. There are places at which it is almost impossible to walk without stepping on trash. It is such a tragedy. I’m not sure why human beings can be so thoughtless, careless, and disrespectful of the creation given us by God.
Do you remember last December when a group of researchers walked into an area of about 740,000 acres in New Guinea which had never before been visited by people? It is amazing that such a place would still exist today, but even native peoples had never ventured into this area.
These researchers discovered some incredible new species of animals never before identified. They found an orange-faced honeyeater bird. They found golden-mantled tree kangaroos and a Long-Beaked Echidna, an egg laying mammal. They discovered 20 new species of frogs, five new species of plants, and four new species of insects. This is one of the last places on earth, said one of the leaders of the expedition, where humans have failed to make an imprint.
Psalm 104 is a song of creation. The psalmist remembers how God built his palace out of the depths of the oceans. He set the earth on its foundations. He created mountains and valleys, springs and rivers, wild animals and birds. How do we see the majesty of God? For this psalmist, that majesty is seen in the clothing of creation, the heavens and the earth.
Throughout the history of Christian spirituality, there has often been a profound sense of God’s presence in nature. In the early years of the thirteenth century, St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “The Canticle of Brother Sun.” He praised God for all his creatures: brother sun, sister moon and stars, brother wind, sister water, brother fire, and sister mother earth.
One of my favorite psalms is the eighth. This psalmist marvels at the creation. According to Eugene Petersons’s translation, the writer says: “I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings.” And then he says: “Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” This psalmist understood the greatness of creation and the smallness and insignificance of human beings.
That point is brought home to Job. When Job was in the midst of his suffering, he complained to God about the injustice of it all. God responded with some questions of his own. “Where were you,” he wanted to know, “when I created the earth…How was its foundation poured and who set the cornerstone…Who took charge of the ocean?” (see Job 38:2-11). You see, God’s creation has been good from the beginning. God knows the big picture.
Not every sanctuary is found indoors. Certainly you have experienced a profound sense of the presence of God at some time or another when you were walking along a beach, or hiking in the mountains, or having a picnic in a park, or enjoying the sunset over one of our northern Indiana lakes. The whole outdoors becomes a sanctuary in praise and blessing from God. In moments like that, don’t you, like the writer of Psalm 8, feel incredibly small? Don’t you wonder why in the world God pays attention to you? With all that God has to do – running the universe and all – isn’t it amazing that he still has time for us?
Jesus was talking to the disciples one day about their fears. He was telling them that there would come a time when they would face persecution and trouble. But he told them not to worry. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).