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Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Birds can teach us by Geoff Thompson

I presented this Christian  message on 8/3/20 at the Lifecare Parkrose Nursing Home United Congregation on Sunday 8/3/20.

The Birds our Teachers

You would have noticed in my power point presentations for this service I often have pictures of Australian Birds.
That stems from my love of birds and bird watching and bird photography.

Today I would like to speak about how we can learn from the birds much about God.

(I got the idea to do this today as a few weeks back Roger Brown was using the Eagle as part of his message.)

In fact you often come across people who say there is no God and that we just evolved as slime from the mud of the ocean.

They don’t believe there is a creator and therefore don’t believe in God let alone Jesus.

All they really have to do is look around and think about the beauty of our creation.

Where did it all come from?

As Paul says in Romans 1.20

“Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of His existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God on judgement ay.”

The birds are part of creation and they do feature quite a bit in the Bible.

I started bird watching on the encouragement of my father when I was about 12.

Mainly because at that age I had my own air rifle and I was in the habit of shooting the sparrows in the backyard.
I had no regard for them as creatures.
Not a good habit to get into.

Back then Australia had a “own your own gun and use it mentality” just like America still does.
Thankfully that is largely a thing of the past although some still insist on recreational duck shooting.

Well I got myself a bird identification book, was given some binoculars as a Christmas present and a groundsheet to sit on while I watched birds.
 These days they would probably have called me a nerd.

Anyway my interest and knowledge grew.

When I finally got into photography in about 1970, then my passion for bird photography started to take off.

So what has all this got to do with today’s message?

Well my father in law was an expert on birds and he was always saying they were cleverer than us and even had a language they could communicate with each other.

He believed we could learn a lot from birds.

He used to talk about birds as if they were humans.

For example he  would call them husband and wife.

Not male and female.

They are not humans of course and the message we had read to us today from John 3 does not apply to them.

In the sense they are not sinners and do not need salvation in the way we do.

Our response to God and the Gospel also has an impact on our world and indeed the birds.

A famous Theologian, the late John Stott, was also a keen birdwatcher and photographer.

He wrote a book some years back called “the birds our teachers”.

He invented what he called “Ornitheology”.

I am going to draw on some of his ideas today and share one or two of my own.

He was introduced to birdwatching by his father at the age of 5 or 6.

His interest grew and as his preaching duties took him around the world he was able to observe and photograph birds everywhere he went.

In the book of Genesis,

Adam was given the job of naming the birds and animals.

They were first assigned to him as companions.

Then God gave him Eve.

I wonder how many of his names are still used?

Please note that the subject of birds is a big one.

Many have written about birds,

many have drawn and painted them,

many have photographed them,

many have recorded their songs,

many study them,

there are many documentaries about birds,

some try to teach us about evolution through them,

many have worshipped them and also used them as sacrifices,

 and of course many are eaten daily as food.

My focus today is on birds as exclusively created by God and how in some ways they can point us to Him.

My aim, as always, is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ;

 and how the birds around us can assist us in this.

Jesus was and is their creator.

So lets start talking about some of these birds and how they might help us draw closer to God in our thinking.

The Sparrow.

Luke 12:6-7 Living Bible (TLB)
“What is the price of five sparrows?
A couple of pennies? Not much more than
that. Yet God does not forget a single one of
 them. And he knows the number of hairs
 on your head! Never fear, you are far more
valuable to him than a whole flock of

(show slide of sparrows)

It is a fact that in some countries small birds such as sparrows and songbirds are still sold in market places for food.
The little dead sparrow in the picture I photographed on Everard terrace just out the front of Parkrose some years ago when visiting Aunty Doreen.

I took it because of this verse, and I thought one day I might give a talk such as todays.

John Stott focuses on this well known verse in his book.
(That was our call to worship today.)

John says there is an epidemic around the world these days of what is called low self esteem and depression and mental health issues.

We don’t have to look far to notice this.

Well he argues that we should realize how blessed our lives are, and we really don’t have a good reason to be down in the dumps.

By learning from this passage we are given a glimpse of the way out.

He tells the story of Joni Earekson-Tada.
You might remember her as the 17 year old all American teenager who tragically broke her neck in a diving accident.
She had a re awakening of her faith when this happened but has been in a wheel chair all her life.
She married Ken Tada and although she started and still leads a ministry for disabled people she has had her bouts of depression.

Especially after 25 years in a wheelchair and she became bed ridden for a time.
Her husband Ken, placed a bird feeder outside her window.
This is what she is quoted as saying in John’s book.

“I glanced at the bird feeder and smiled. I could understand Jesus noticing an eagle…but a scrappy sparrow?  They’re a dime a dozen,
Jesus said so Himself.
Yet from thousands of bird species the Lord chose the most insignificant, least noticed ,scruffiest bird of all.
A pint sized thing that even birdwatchers ignore.
That thought alone calmed my fears.

I felt significant and noticed….if the great God of Heaven concerns Himself with a ragtag little sparrow,

clinging to a bird feeder outside my window,

He cares about me.”

This was the catalyst that helped her overcome her depression.

He cares about all of us.

So we can learn from the sparrow when we remind ourselves of this verse.

How impressive is it when you see a hen bird of any species protecting it’s young under it’s feathers.

(show slide)

I was admiring with Shirley Rumbelow a few weeks ago, the little quails in the atrium/aviary here in Parkrose.

A little Hen quail ,

though itself is tiny,

had even tinier little chicks under the protection of it’s feathers.

How wonderful is the gift of Mothers,

 who are like hens for us when we are little,

 and usually throughout our lives.

And God Himself is likened to our protector as we shelter in his “wings”.

He is both our Father and Mother.

We can learn from the protecting and nurturing nature of hens.

The Thrush
(show first slide)

There are many birds around the world that  are wonderful songsters.

We have several species in Australia.

However I would like to concentrate on one bird we have in Australia.

It is a beautiful songster.
The Grey Shrike Thrush is common in the countryside in Australia and has a number of beautiful calls.

They can become very tame if you are lucky enough to have them on your property.

(show video clip)

They and other birds such as the Nightingale, The Black Bird, The Willy Wagtail and the Butcher Bird have beautiful calls.

The Australian Magpie also has beautiful warbling song,

If you are ever fortunate enough to be in woodland in Australia at Dawn you can hear the beautiful dawn chorus of any number of species all joining in together.

Music and song is such a great gift God has given us and the birds.

A reminder that with this gift we can praise God together and in doing so inspire each other and be uplifted as we touch our living God in joyful song.

The Thrush, and other songbirds
give us a wonderful example of the beauty of praise.

Of making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

The Apostle Bird

(show slide)

Here is a link to my youtube posts about Apostle Birds

The Apostle Bird is a bird of inland Australia.

I first saw these birds when I was 13 on a station property on the Darling River in NSW.

A mid sized grey bird that always seems very busy and noisy when not resting in the shade of a tree.

They are called Apostle birds because when first observed by early settlers they seemed to always be together in groups of about 12.

I have actually seen lot larger groups than that but never big flocks.

They are very communal birds,

a fellowship if you like.

They build one mud nest that is utilized by all in their group.

They look out for each other and their young.

I’ve seen them surrounding a sparrow hawk and chasing him off when he was too close to their nest.

(show slide)

The early disciples of Jesus were very communal and shared possessions with each other.

We could learn a lot from the “love” and sharing the Apostle Birds have  for each other.

The Dove.

(show slide)

The dove is widely recognized as a symbol of peace and also of God’s Holy Spirit.

When Jesus was baptized a dove descended on him representing the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us when we are baptized we receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

We are also told in the Bible that God is always with us.

No matter what our circumstances

 He is with us every day,

every hour,

every minute,

every second.

As a dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit

their presence all around in our gardens and parks is a great reminder of The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives as our comforter, our helper,our teacher our source of God’s power in our lives.

So in conclusion:

We have touched on some Birds about :

God’s love for us, no matter how insignificant we think we are,

The need to work together as Christians
and love and support each other.

God is always with us.
His Holy Spirit is always with us.

We have much to praise God about and can do so in song.

Of course we have our Bibles to tell us so much more

 but if we didn’t

we can still learn about  God’s love from the

“Birds our Teachers”

They have many more lessons for us if we take notice.

When I gave Valmai today’s reading she said there is nothing about birds in it.

That’s true in a sense.

But this reading is recommended in the lectionary for today as we are approaching Easter,

The reading features the famous “ God so loved the world” verse.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

and verse 17 says

“God did not send His son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.”

In regard to v17 it should be realized when Jesus came the world was already condemned since the fall in the Garden of Eden.

In verse 16 we can put our own name in the place of world to allow that verse to hit home to us with the Gospel.

But the verse also says He loves the world.

His creation.

He loves His whole creation including the birds.

The sparrow in particular is highlighted to help us in our understanding of God’s love for us.

Sparrows can’t believe in Him, well they don’t have that capacity, but we can on their behalf and all other creatures.

The Birds and all of creation rely on us humans to help sustain the planet and their habitat.

We have heard a lot about that lately, haven’t we?

Perhaps I will close with a famous encounter with a bird in the new testament.

It happened just before the Crucifixion of Jesus.

It is found in Luke 22:31- 34,54-62

(Read from Bible).

Peter was found out by the crowing of a rooster.

It was not a message for the whole world to hear.

Only for Peter!

But in turn we who are Christians can now heed it’s lesson.

It applies to us.

Is our love for Jesus genuine?

Would we give our lives up for His sake?

Would we ever deny Him before men?

Do we need to take steps to grow in our faith?

That is a lesson for us to ponder.

As we approach easter and people are talking about the resurrection as they do, will we walk away from the conversation like Peter?

What a challenge!

If you would like to see more about Australian birds I have done a small series on you tube.

Here is a link to my introduction to this series and then you can checkout the later videos. 

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