You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
Last week as our American cousins celebrated Martin Luther King Day my attention was drawn to a quotation by the great civil rights leader of the 1960’s. He said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Now that is a challenge indeed. Where you stand on that point is for you to discern but as you might expect I turn to the garden birds for a lesson.
Though small the robin is quite fearless around human beings, indeed he will happily sit on the handle of the garden fork watching for the worms he thinks I have dug up for him. Yet he will, if threatened puff up his feathers to make himself look a lot bigger. He has a bright red breast, is fiercely territorial and will aggressively drive away intruders. He also has a loud distinctive voice. Perhaps we can guess where he would stand! The wren, one of our smaller brown, perhaps dull looking, birds will naturally respond if threatened, but prefers to hide away in the leaf litter at the back of the garden seeking insects and spiders for food. She adopts a different and perhaps more comfortable option. Interestingly although she has a remarkably loud voice for such a small bird I doubt if many people would recognise the wren’s call. However, at dawn all the birds of the garden will sing together; a wonderful chorus to the glory of God.
In relation to Dr King’s probing question we, no doubt ask ourselves: can we as human beings really achieve that much on our own. Can our solitary, small voice make any difference to the world? But is that simply an excuse to do nothing? After all, we have a responsibility to work together, to speak the truth, to peacefully stand up for the rights of all men, especially those who cannot speak for themselves. (Note those words, ‘peacefully stand up for’.) Whilst alone we can do little, remember that in his Epistle to the Corinthians; St Paul reminds his audience that although they each have their own characteristics nevertheless they are all part of the same body. More importantly he reminds us that “Now you are the body of Christ and each of you is a part of it” 1 Corinthians 12:7(NIV). That then is the answer. Each of the birds has an individual voice, some louder or more easily recognisable than others yet at dawn they sing a beautiful chorus together. In the same way, together with our fellows we can achieve something. But with God’s help and in God’s name we can achieve that which we are called to do; to stand up to the challenges of the day. As Jesus said: ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’ Matthew 18:20(NIV)
Let us pray for God’s assistance to meet the challenges of the coming day, together, peacefully.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years