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Risky Business

Those who have will get more until they grow rich, while those who have not will lose even the little they have. – Matthew 25:29

If any birds could be seen as examples of taking Jesus’ parable of the landowner to heart, it would be shorebirds. The parable is about taking risks to please God. The long-distance migrants among the shorebirds know something about risk. They time their 3000-mile (or more) flights to coincide with the very short, but exceedingly abundant, insect hatch on the arctic tundra. In the short span of a few weeks, they nest and hatch their young, who are immediately nearly independent. This means that they don’t require assistance from the adults to feed, which then leads to the adults taking off on their southward migration first, since the young must grow to full size before they can handle the trip. Once they gorge on enough bugs to build up their fat reserves as fuel for the long flight, they take off. But to where? The only members of their species who have been to the wintering grounds have already left on that journey. How will they find the right spot? Well, life does always find a way. In this case, as remarkable as it may be, the tiny shorebirds are endowed with the ability to navigate to the exact spot they need to find. It is like they are hard-wired with an instinctual GPS unit.

We like to say “go big or go home” while some of the most vulnerable creatures show us up by going big so that they can go home. Jesus’ parable is troubling in that it suggests a comparison between a cruel, capricious, lawless landowner and God. It is likely that his objective was more contrast than comparison. The takeaway from the parable ought to be that if you understand how important it is to take a risk out of fear, how much more so is a risk worthwhile for love? These shorebirds take huge risks for the sake of survival and family and are richly rewarded with a pretty cool (divine?) gift of navigation to make it all possible.

Prayer: Holy navigator, thank you for your gentle voice saying “recalculating.” We are ready to start following your directions, not out of fear, but for the great love that fuels our journey. Amen.


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