The little sparrow peeks out the tiny door of our new bright blue birdhouse, and my heart skips half-a-beat. I find myself captivated by his wee head happily framed by his new-found shelter. How does such a tiny warm-blooded being, I wonder, survive in the frigid winds this winter has brought us? I do some checking, and I learn that he has a much higher metabolism rate and a higher body temperature than we humans have. That he probably grew extra feathers last fall, feathers coated with an oil that provides insulation and water-proofing. That when he fluffs his feathers, he creates air pockets that give him even better insulation. All of this helps, I’m sure, but still I’m happy that this little one has found some extra shelter in our little birdhouse.
So many others I’ve seen lately in the news have not found the shelter they so desperately long for and need. There’s the shoeless orphan boy standing in the frigid snows of North Korea. The Syrian father brooming snow off the tent that serves as a temporary shelter for his refugee family. The aged Ukrainian man carrying a bucket of coal through the snow to try to keep his family warm while war rages through the streets of his town.
All so defenseless in these Lenten days of arctic cold. I say a prayer for that North Korean orphan, for that Syrian father, for that aged Ukrainian gentleman. I say a prayer for greater justice and peace in our troubled world, and for all who lack shelter in these bitter cold late winter days.
I look again at my sparrow’s tiny face. At the cold trees and the snow-covered ground. And I give thanks that the One to whom I pray is One who cares about shelter for all creatures. Cares enough that he un-sheltered himself and came to earth for us and for our salvation. Lived among us and taught us to care for each other. Fed the hungry and healed the sick, all the while having no shelter for himself, nowhere to lay his head. I give thanks that he un-sheltered himself yet further on the cross, stretching out his arms, the very Wings of God, to shelter every tiny life through all of time, through all eternity.
Mystery beyond comprehension.