February 20: The Bird’s Message

Used with permission by author. Source: https://www.larryjent.org

Mark 1:10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

In Native American cosmology, birds are never just birds. They come bearing spiritual messages for those who take time to listen.

Among the Cherokee, the chickadee is the bird who always tells the truth. In the old days, many warriors told stories about being saved by a Chickadee. An enemy was lying in wait along the path, but a chickadee raised such a ruckus that the warrior knew something was wrong. Chickadees announce the return of a friend. They tell the hunters where to look for game.

The great buzzard may seem like an unlikely hero, but it is known also as the Peace Eagle. Vultures soar on unseen pillows of air and never take life in order to feed.

For the people of the Northwest, Raven is a trickster—like Brer Rabbit in the South, or Wile E. Coyote in modern times. Yet he is also a force of creation and a source of blessing for human beings.

Birds do not always bring welcome messages. In many Indian traditions the owl can be a harbinger of death. When Native people have a near death experience we often say, “I heard the owl call my name.” In my line of work I have often been called to pray beside the deathbed of a saint struggling to cross over. On more than one occasion I have seen an owl come near the window in broad daylight while we prayed, then depart when the journey is complete.

In the Christian tradition we often call spiritual messengers, “angels.” In ancient times angels were not cherubs with stubby little wings; or heavenly warriors with flaming swords. Angels were very real people with a very important job. They carried the words of the king to someone who needed the message. Then they carried the reply back to the king.

That is exactly the way we understand birds in Native spirituality. The spiritual power of a hawk or an eagle is that they can fly closer to the sun than any other birds. They bring the presence of God down to us, and they carry our prayers back to God.

What if God sent you a feathered messenger today? What would it be? For Jesus, it was a dove. A symbol of peace. True. And a symbol of love. Absolutely.

But a dove was also a symbol of sacrifice. This meaning could not have been lost on Jesus. God sent a message of sacrifice as Jesus came up from the river.

But that was only half of the task.

God waited to see what Jesus would do with the message. Would he run like Jonah? Would he curse like Balaam? Would he hide like Adam?

How would Jesus reply?

That was the reason Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. He was finding his answer to God’s message. He was answering the call.

Consider again: If god sent you a messenger in the form of a dove today, how long would it take you to hear it? How long would it take you to reply?

Is it possible that God is still sending birds to speak to us? Is it possible that God could find someone to listen?

Or, to put it another way, if you are not listening for the Creator to speak through a bird—how DO you listen? What it would it take for you to hear God calling your name? And how would you reply?

Creator, we are accustomed to hearing our own voices. We drown out your messages with our noise, and we call the silence God. Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear the messages of Creation. And this time, when you speak, we will reply.

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.
Translate »