Cowbirds. Black birds with velvet-brown heads; no real color to speak of. Complete moochers, eating just about anything you put out, even the filler seed that most birds won’t even touch. And their nests! Or should I say the nests they sneak into, lay their eggs, and then leave their young to depend upon the birds who own them to raise them. When I see them at the feeder I roll my eyes. Ugh. Not pretty to look at; eat anything, anywhere, anytime; no responsibility. What are they good for? On the surface, nothing.
But even a bird-loving Christian has to be honest about nature, digging a little deeper, knowing that the earth has real depth to it. It’s not always pretty or the most helpful, but that isn’t why you love it. Nature is creation, the world that God spent the first 6 of 7 days creating. And now, he is lifting the curse of sin that has affected everything from the leaves of the trees to the hearts of the people. The work of Jesus Christ goes far beyond the lie you told once, the relationship that sadly never worked out, or even the mark on your record that wish would go away. Paul says it best,
20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. -Romans 8.20-23
Creation is in this with us, groaning, and sometimes may be even doing a better job. Even Jesus said that if we didn’t reach out to God that the rocks would cry out (Luke 19.39, 40).
But what about the cowbirds?! I don’t like them! Well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that God cares about all of it. God loves pretty birds and not-so-pretty birds. He loves Spring and he loves Summer. He loves you and he loves me. When I took the picture above, I thought about this passage,
22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. -Matthew 15.22-28
Jesus saw the motivation of her faith, that it was sincere and raw. She believed he was Lord and was concerned for her daughter. Jesus saw the greatness of her faith, even though she was a Canaanite woman, a true enemy of the Jews. She wasn’t a dog taking food from the children’s table. She was a woman in dire need, seeking mercy from God and health for her daughter. Jesus knows this and her reward is found in her needs being met.
They’re not ugly, gluttonous, irresponsible birds. Look closer: in the sun, their iridescence is amazing, with greens, blues, and purple’s bouncing off their feathers; they move and travel a lot, therefore they need to keep up their diet so they can keep moving; and their nesting habits, while unusual, are a product of their nature – imperfect or not.
So, I’ve been welcoming them to the table. They’re hungry just like everyone else. Besides, the cardinals, titmice, chickadees, finches, sparrows, and warblers seem not to mind. Why should I? God’s creation waits for the same redemption as me. I’m glad they’re here. Let’s groan together.