Monday, November 28, 2011

Of Birds, Cherubim and the Good Creation

On one of the lists on which I write from time to time, this message arrived this morning:

Psalm 80:1

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

Cherubim are winged angels that carry prayers to God.

An osprey called my attention to this verse this morning. She cried as I passed under her perch on the power lines when I was leaving the neighborhood for a walk. She flew in front of me to perch on a house when I returned.

Like the writer, I love the psalms. Though laced with violence and hierarchical imagery, they are also the repository of some of ancient Israel’s most pastoral imagery, here quite literally. In this verse the people of Israel are compared to a sheep (don’t want to think too long on that one – sheep are often quite literally stinky and stupid) led by a shepherd. And the verse refers to cherubim who, as the writer notes, are the winged angels carrying prayers before the presence of G-d. It’s beautiful imagery emerging from lyrical wordsmithing. It’s not hard to like the psalms.

The writer’s reference to the osprey nesting atop the power lines prompted this response:

I have always seen the presence of birds as the presence of the spirit. I am always happy to encounter birds in my daily life as I see them as a good omen. I have created a small sanctuary of trees amidst a city of 2 million people so the birds have a place to rest.

On Sept. 11, 2001, air traffic was halted in the face of the emergencies in NYC, Washington and PA. I was so troubled that day that I went for a walk with my husband to try to calm myself. As we walked along the lake near my house, I was struck by how quiet it was without the noise of airplanes which fly over my neighborhood enroute to landing at either of the two airports here in Orlando.

The birds were singing like crazy that day, perhaps a eulogy to the thousands of their fellow creatures, human animals, who had died that day under horrible circumstances. Suddenly, it struck me that they had probably been singing all along. But I hadn’t heard them for the noise and the hustle of daily life. And what a loss to my life that had been.

I try to pay attention to the birds these days. Unlike my Protestant fellow writer, the birds do not prompt me to think of scripture. But they do remind me of the overwhelming generosity of G-d and the goodness of G-d’s creation of which we human animals are a part but only a part.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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