You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
For the last few years a family of blackbirds has made a nest in our winter jasmine hedge. As we hadn’t seen them this year yet we wondered if they had chosen to make a home elsewhere. However, yesterday I was delighted to see Mother Blackbird taking material to the hedge to make her nest once again. Now, recently there have been a number of magpies in the trees and on the ground around here. Some people do not like magpies; noisy chattering birds with black and white plumage and a long tail quite unlike anything else in the UK. It is true that, their challenging, almost arrogant attitude has won them few friends, but as members of the crow family they are one of nature’s waste disposal experts. However, like every other creature on this earth they need to feed their fledglings, even if that does mean stealing the eggs or the young of other nesting birds. But they have the same right to existence as the blackbird, the robin, the blue tits or any other bird that feeds from our garden. After all the magpie who threatens smaller birds and the robin who comes to sit on the spade enquiring if we have dug up any worms for him to eat, and the blackbirds are all neighbours.
In the same way, God made each and every one of us, in different shapes sizes and colours, in diverse races and religions but we are all human beings, and each person is our neighbour. But do we always treat our fellow man as our neighbour?
Should we mete out physical violence to those who disagree with us? What happened to turn the other cheek? (Matthew 5:39). Or should we cry “Send the refugees back we don’t want them here. They only want to take our jobs, our benefits!” What happened to compassion? How do we square these statements with God’s love for us? “For God so loved the world...” (John 3:16). And note here that God loves the whole world not just one part of it. St Augustine put it rather well when he said: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.” How awesome is that? Surely rather than build walls or barriers between us we ought to be building bridges, showing respect for, and giving assistance to, those less fortunate than ourselves. Jesus sent his disciples out to be healers (Mark 6:13). As God’s disciples we too are called to heal the suffering in our world and whilst we cannot change the world singlehandedly, we can make a difference in our families, our communities our neighbourhood.
No special gift is required, so what are you waiting for?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years