Early-morning birds of prey really birds of praise in song

When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying — the heaven was opened — and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form as a dove.

— Luke 3:21-22

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

— Acts 2:4

At the place where Jesus was crucified, There was a garden.

— John 19:41

I have at least one healthy habit. On many mornings, before 6 a.m., I walk out into the backyard while our little Pippa the Pug is doing her morning exercise. I often walk over to the spot where we plant our annual vegetable garden. There, I will sometimes pray about the day, my family, my congregation and myself.

I was engaging this regular practice this past April. I was meditating on the empty garden that lay before me.

It was still dark. The moon was still hanging like a lamp on a parking lot pole.

In that dim light, I could hardly see the barren garden in front of me. It was cold, dark and damp.

But I heard a sound that grabbed my attention. It was the sound of the early birds, the ones we are told “get the worm.” The birds were singing in the darkness, and their cheerful chirping cut through the dew. As I looked at my empty garden in the cold darkness, I realized life was thriving. Life was stirring and waking up to a new day.

For the early birds — and for me — the day was beginning before dawn arrived. I heard the singing of the birds as a promise.

The promise is that, even though we experience the cold darkness, life will again thrive. We talk about “birds of prey.” But I heard these birds as “birds of praise.” Their song reminded me that God comes to us and allows us to grow. When it seems life is over, life begins again.

This is the promise of the Resurrection. This is the promise of the Ascension. This is the promise of the Pentecost.

For those Christians who follow “the Christian calendar,” June 4 was the beginning of the long season known as Pentecost. Pentecost is the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon us like a wild fire, but also like a beautiful bird. Pentecost means that you and I can grow wings — wings that will remind us that no darkness and no dampness can ever keep us from growing and thriving.

After the day of Pentecost, we enter what is called “The Season of Pentecost.” The season of Pentecost is the longest season on the Christian calendar. Some churches call it “ordinary time.” Indeed it represents, for me, the ordinary miracle of growing gardens. This long season is also called “the green season.”

The “decorations” (paraments) in our sanctuary will be green in color. Why is green the color of the Pentecost season? Because Pentecost is the season of “growth” — growth in our collective and individual walks in Christ. We are promised new life each day. We are called to grow in grace. We are called to become people of praise, who feed on God’s word and the real presence of Christ in Communion.

We are people of the promise and people of the call. The song God gives us to sing is meant to be heard by our neighbors as we touch their lives.

Even though we are blessed with the presence of Christ and the beginnings of the kingdom (or realm) of God that Jesus proclaims, we still await the full shining of God’s light. It is as if we are still in the early dawn of the new creation in Christ.

During Pentecost this year, think about “the birds of praise.” Think about the fact that the new day in Christ begins before the light of dawn. In Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit a new life begins even in the darkness of death.

Listen for signs of life in the damp darkness. You will hear music on angels wings as you hear the word of God’s promise.

The Rev. Larry Isbell is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Columbus. He can reached at janetti600@comcast.net.