My father was a housepainter. His work garage, where he stored paints and equipment, had a wall of windows at one end of it. Sometimes when the garage door was left open, birds would fly into the garage. Usually when this happened the birds would find their way out of the garage through the open door. There were, however, occasions when some birds would become confused by the illusion of freedom as they flew into and beat their wings against the wall of windows.
When this happened, either my father or I would catch the birds, take them to the garage door, and set them free. Some of the birds would allow us to catch them easily in their quest for freedom. Other birds, however, would fight all the harder for freedom as they avoided us and became frantic in their attempts to escape as they beat their wings against the glass wall.
When this happened, the only solution was to wait patiently and allow the bird to tire itself out as it flapped its wings and jumped back and forth against the glass wall. After the bird grew tired, it would sit on the window sill in exhaustion and allow me to hold it as I took it to the garage door where it flew to freedom. Sometimes the bird quickly would fly to freedom. Sometimes the bird would rest and gain its strength as I held it in my hands.
One day, Jesus talked with his disciples about sparrows as he said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your heard are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” To understand Jesus’ teaching, it is important to note that Jesus’ lesson about sparrows is located between two demands of trusting discipleship that sets Jesus’ followers free.
The first demand of trusting discipleship is found in Matthew 10:26-27 as Jesus tells his disciples, “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”
The second demand of trusting discipleship is found in Matthew 10:38-39 as Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
It is in the middle of these two demands of trusting discipleship that Jesus invites his disciples to consider the sparrows. Perhaps the reason Matthew places the invitation to consider the value of sparrows here because he is mindful of the psalmist’s trusting words in Psalm 84:3:
“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”
I think Jesus asked the disciples to consider the value of sparrows in order to make a point about what it means to be live with trust in God’s all-encompassing love.
Clarence Jordan lived with trust in God’s all-encompassing love. He was an agriculture major at the University of Georgia and a Master of Divinity graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also earned a PhD in New Testament. Jordan founded the racially integrated Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia in 1942. You may be familiar with Jordan through his Cotton Patch translations of the New Testament or because the Habitat for Humanity movement originated from the Koinonia Farm.
Greg Carey recalls how Clarence Jordan lived in Jesus’ demand of trusting discipleship through his sense of humor. Once, accused of fraternizing with Myles Horton, a reputed communist, Jordan retorted, “I really have trouble with your logic. I don’t think my talking to Myles Horton makes me a Communist any more than talking to you right now makes me a jackass.”
Likewise, when the Koinonia community tried selling peanuts from a roadside stand the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the stand. Stubborn like most saints for justice, Jordan put up another stand. It got blown up too. Finally, the Koinonia Farm resorted to mail-order ads: “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia.”
As we look at the world, we will see people, who like the birds in my father’s garage, are beating against glass walls in their quest for life. Jesus invites us to proclaim the message of God’s all-encompassing love from the housetops as we take up our cross and follow Jesus.
As we look at the world, we will see people, who like the birds in my father’s garage are beating against glass walls. As we see them, we may question if we want to share the message of trusting discipleship with them. It is in the reality of these questions that Jesus instructs us to fear not as we remember that they are of more value than many sparrows.
It is in this reality that Jesus calls us to live with patient faith as we remember the love of God that holds us and allows us to fly with fearless trust.
Consider the Sparrows
by Pastor Marc Brown
June 25, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Matthew 10:26-39
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for June 25, 2023
Scripture Lesson Matthew 10:26-39
The Good News “Consider the Sparrows”
Music “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” by Christopher Miner
Closing Music “Rejoice, the Lord is King” arr. Edward Broughton