You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
The blackbird, the robin and the wren are all favourite garden birds since each has a lesson to teach us. Whilst they are utterly different in size, colour and habits, all have one feature in common – a loud voice! The blackbird is the first to wake in the morning so that his calls arouse the other birds to join the dawn chorus. The robin has a distinctive call which will scare off any intruders to his territory, whilst for one of the smallest of our garden birds; the wren has a remarkably loud voice.
Unlike the garden birds we in this country often tend to keep quiet about our Christianity. “We don’t want to offend anybody” we say, or maybe “They won’t understand” or perhaps “I am not confident that I have the ability to discuss it with someone who has other ideas”. And so we slip out unnoticed to church and return to carry on our daily life. No one is the wiser and no friends are lost. But is that what God calls us to do?
Let us look at these statements one at a time. Firstly, how can God’s commandments to love God and to love our neighbour offend anyone? Indeed ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16 NIV sounds like a wonderful and most precious gift to me, not something that is likely to offend anyone. Secondly, in order that they do understand what we say we need to prepare ourselves; here a good adage is, ‘think before you speak and pray before you think.’ Take comfort from the prophet Isaiah ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10. Thirdly, as to the idea that we do not have the ability to speak about our faith, I know from personal experience that God will give us the words we need at the right time. As Jesus said: ‘do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say’, Matthew 10:19 Lastly, and perhaps this is the whole point, remember: ‘Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.’ Matthew 5:15 (NIV). Of course, we must be careful not to appear as the Pharisee in the Temple, who prayed to show everyone how righteous he was; in other words he prayed for his glory rather that for the glory of God.
Yet surely, as God gave the birds loud voices to proclaim His glory each and every morning, we are called to proclaim our faith in God clearly so that everyone can hear?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years