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Psalm 148; Matthew 6:25-34, Romans 8:18-27 & the story of Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds [LINK to story]
Francis of Assisi had a different way of understanding the Bible than many of the church leaders of his day. His reading of the Word consisted mainly of the gospels and the psalms. He was a literalist, but one that focused more upon the spirit than the letter of the word. He didn’t view the teachings of Jesus through the lenses of church tradition, ritual institutionalization or metaphorical self-legitimization. He tried to live what he heard and read.
An hagiographical story about Francis tells of how he preached to a flock of birds. While traveling, he suddenly realized that he was surrounded by a group of ordinary birds (imagine Hitchcock’s movie, but quite different). The story, recounted as #15 in the Little Flowers, tells of him exhorting the birds, pointing out their God-given beauty and well as the miraculous way that God cared for them. Francis this continued on his way and preached a sermon in the village he arrived at next. Wouldn’t you kill to be a fly on the plaza wall to have heard that one?
Francis is known as the patron saint of the environment and animals in the tradition of the catholic church. This comes from his belief and practice that God loves all creatures and parts of creation and that they in turn can love and know God as well. This belief was word-based, Psalm 148 is a great example, and likely inspiration, of his theological approach to creation, nature and all life.
Matthew is part of the larger Jesus teaching called the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s section Jesus is speaking specifically about worry, our anxiety about survival, things and struggle to trust God’s providence. Jesus uses nature as an example of how to live. What’s he getting at? What does it mean that today’s trouble is enough for today?
Romans 8 tells of the eschatological state of things – that all of creation is in need of deliverance, healing, saving and salvation. Our future is intimately and immediately linked to that of creation. Paul points to a mystery that caring for creation – what today we might call green – is actually joining in with the work and mission of God. It’s not just politically correct, or a conscientious thing to do – it’s a spiritual truth. Curiously this section of the letter moves to talk about the Spirit of God int he world. It’s the Spirit who actually does the work, bringing things to completion, addressing the hurts that need to be healed, revealing the hope that is waited for, even delivering the words that are needed and difficult to find.
Questions for Reflection:
*What word, phrase or image strikes you in Psalm 148 or Matthew 6 or Romans 8?
*How does your faith in Christ shape the way you see and interact with animals, and the environment (creation)?
*How can you learn about faith and the heart of God by observing and mediating on the created world?
*What trouble or worries are you struggling with in this season of your life?