Monday, January 03, 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So

The lectionary readings for yesterday included Psalm 84:

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord,
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

This put me in mind of two things at once. One was the chapel, just outside the sanctuary where we were reading this Psalm. One morning, for the early service (held in the small chapel), I'd heard the birds in the eaves, singing up the morning. The acoustics made it sound like they were inside the building, not outside, and these verses sprang to mind. But the other occassion was more recent.

Houston (where I live) is anything but a beautiful city. It's all concrete and freeways and telephone lines and commercial buildings, with lots of trees, but mostly in neighborhoods. Much of it was, until as recently as 50 years ago, farmland, and a great many more trees than stand today. People forget, but the birds remember. At one of the large intersections I have to travel through almost every day, the birds gather at dusk. They gather, not in trees, but on telephone lines. It seems they've always gathered there, and the presence of a freeway and a major cross street (six lanes, and a six lane free way with 6 lanes of feeder road) doesn't deter them. Nor does the absence of trees. They gather around the freeway, on the telephone lines, and it's fairly clear they are communicating with each other: taking count, if you will, of who is present. They will sit and chatter and move about purposefully, and generally seem to be settling in and making sure all are accounted for. I don't know that they spend the night there, but they are very regular about showing up at sunset.

Which is coming earlier this time of year, so I'm more likely to see them. And recntly they've put me in mind of Psalm 84, too. Until the vision of Ezekiel, or so, God's dwelling place, for the Hebrews, was in the Temple at Jerusalem. After the Exile, and especially Ezekiel's shattering vision of God's throne-chariot, God had no fixed place in creation. So while the psalm puts us in mind of churches and sanctuaries and synagogues, it ain't, as another song says, necessarily so. It isn't otherwise, either. The birds outside the chapel that morning made the presence of the Creator seem more...present. But the birds on those wires, who are, in their way, free, lends a certain freedom to the Creator, too. One worth seeing in the everyday world.

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